Looking back on her long career in education, Maria Bovich said what drew her first to teaching and later to serving as a principal in a Catholic school has not changed from day one.

“Everything you do, everything you say and everything you model is Christ centered,” said Bovich, who is stepping down after 11 years as principal of Holy Redeemer School, College Park, at the end of June.

Although Bovich, who received the prestigious honor of being named the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Distinguished Principal of the Year” in 2016, isn’t exactly retiring from the profession. When the 2019-20 school year opens, Bovich will be serving in a new capacity on behalf of Catholic education, working part-time as a principal’s coach for the archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office. In that role, she will mentor new principals, being on hand to offer advice, professional tools, resources and the best practices to aid them in their new jobs.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Bovich, adding that she has enjoyed being an unofficial mentor to young principals throughout the years. “It’s really a support for principals.”

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Bovich spent part of her youth in the Middle East for her father’s career in intelligence. When the family returned to the United States, they settled in The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Washington, D.C. She attended the Academy of Notre Dame in Washington, D.C. and later graduated from Slippery Rock State College with a degree in special education.

She also holds a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Maryland.

Bovich recalled when as a young teenager in 1970 she heard the famous former NFL player Rosie Greer speak at an assembly held at Gonzaga College High School, encouraging students to volunteer at Camp Shriver, a summer day camp for special needs children at the home of Eunice and Sargent Shriver in Rockville. She went on to work at the camp during the summers, and from that time on, she only wanted to be a teacher.

The field of special education, Bovich said, has always been near and dear to her heart. Her first professional teaching job was as a special needs teacher for students at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute in Washington, D.C., and then for several years in the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

When she became principal of Holy Redeemer, she instituted a resource program for special needs students, offering training for teachers and welcoming students with learning differences.

“The teachers really embraced it – it was time,” she said, adding that a dream of hers would be for more archdiocesan Catholic schools to offer inclusion programs.

During her 11-year tenure at Holy Redeemer School, following several years of service as vice principal at St. Pius X Regional School, Bowie, Bovich oversaw many improvements that reinvigorated Holy Redeemer School, such as growing and maintaining a steady enrollment, building renovations which added much-needed space for technology and resource classrooms, starting a Latino Enrollment Initiative and implementing a pre-K program.

She is also proud of how well prepared Holy Redeemer students are for high school and college, as well as the socio-economic and religiously diverse community, while still maintaining a nearly 80 percent Catholic student body.

In this photo from 2016, Maria Bovich, who stepped down in June after 11 years as principal of Holy Redeemer School in College Park, smiles after being named the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Distinguished Principal of the Year.” (CS file photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

“We always had great teachers, but we needed to let everyone know we were not closing, but thriving,” said Bovich, of her early years as Holy Redeemer's principal. Katrina Fernandez of St. Columba School, Oxon Hill, has been named Bovich’s successor as the new Holy Redeemer principal.

Bovich and her husband, Michael, who are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of five grandchildren, are longtime parishioners of St. Jerome Parish, Hyattsville. When the 2018-19 school year drew to a close, she said it was bittersweet saying goodbye to her Holy Redeemer colleagues, students and school families, who hosted several fond farewell events in her honor before the summer break.

“This has been my life’s work. It’s hard (to leave). The number one thing is the connections with the families,” she said. “You are a mom in everything you do. The parents are my (own) kids’ ages and some I had in school. It’s a beautiful thing to have your life’s work be something you love so much.”