VCS Principals standing behind a book shelf

Celebrating the Women Leaders who are Shaping Education at Valley Catholic School

If you have visited the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus recently, you may have noticed the presence of women in primary leadership roles across all five Valley Catholic Schools. The defining requirement to be a school principal is not gender, but the strength of leaders who are deeply committed to the mission of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and leading a Catholic school. The collective influence of these campus leaders extends far beyond administrative roles, as they serve as inspirations and mentors for students, faculty, and the entire SSMO campus community.

An exceptional team of four accomplished women as principals, and an imaginative and creative music school director, this supergroup aims to enhance the Catholic education experience at Valley Catholic School. Together, they plan to promote collaboration, introduce new ideas and work towards upholding a shared commitment to excellence.

All five women deliver fresh perspectives and innovative strategies into their respective domains. From pioneering experiential learning programs to incorporating modern technology, their contributions have elevated the educational experience for students across all grade levels.

Stellar Women Leaders

Amber Ploussard behind a podium

“I am blessed to be a part of this community and to serve as the VCELS principal by following Jesus’ example through prayer, service, and love. As Catholic school leaders, we get to partner with our parents and teachers as we help our children learn, grow, and live in their faith.”

— Amber Ploussard, VCELS Principal

Amber Ploussard

Amber Ploussard, Principal at Valley Catholic Early Learning School, is the first touchpoint for students embarking on their educational journey. Her innovative approach to early education combines nurturing care with engaging learning experiences, laying a strong foundation for lifelong scholastic achievement.

Ploussard’s dedication to the growth of Valley Catholic Early Learning School extends beyond the confines of the classroom. She leads school-wide initiatives
that promote a deeper connection with faith into daily activities. One such initiative includes student-led prayer time, a powerful practice that encourages students to take ownership of their spiritual journey.

Additionally, the school actively participates in community service endeavors, partnering with organizations like the KGW Toy Drive and Northwest Children’s Outreach. These events not only benefit the wider campus community but also instill a sense of empathy and responsibility in our youngest Valiants.

Yvonne in front of books

“I want to help grow leaders. It is important to me that I nurture and honor the unique gifts of others around me.”

— Dr. Yvonne Ayesiga, VCES Principal

Dr. Yvonne Ayesiga

Dr. Yvonne Ayesiga, Principal of Valley Catholic Elementary School, ensures that students not only thrive in their studies but also grow into empathetic and compassionate people. Dr. Ayesiga embraces diversity and establishing a sense of belonging— creating an environment where meaningful conversations can flourish.

Dr. Ayesiga envisions enriching the long-term success and growth of the school by fostering a deeper understanding of the diverse and vibrant community at the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus. She sees the multitude of diverse cultures and backgrounds as an invaluable asset.

To create an inclusive school culture, Dr. Ayesiga strives to connect on a personal level with every student, parent and staff member. She envisions meaningful conversations beyond the customary greetings, believing that this approach creates a stronger sense of belonging.

While not framed as an initiative, Dr. Ayesiga cherishes the all-school Mass that unites students from Early Learning, Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. This gathering, particularly the tender voices of younger children singing and echoing “Amen,” holds immense beauty for her.

Building robust relationships with parents, faculty, and staff is paramount to Dr. Ayesiga. She emphasizes open lines of communication and places a special emphasis on face-to-face conversations for parents. This, she believes, creates a deeper connection and understanding.

Jen sitting with hands crossed on a table

“I hope that when I am no longer principal, I will have helped touch the hearts of our students – whether it was through my personal interaction with them or by being part of a team that created an environment where they learned to recognize and embed the Sisters’ Core Values into their lives.”

— Dr. Jen Gfroerer, VCMS Principal

Dr. Jennifer Gfroerer

Guiding students through the formative years of adolescence, Dr. Jennifer Gfroerer, Principal of Valley Catholic Middle School, provides steady leadership. She would like to continue cultivating an environment where students thrive academically while also blossoming as empathetic and civic-minded people.

Dr. Gfroerer envisions contributing to the long-term success and growth of the school by instilling the Catholic faith and the Sisters’ mission into every
facet of the school’s program. She aims to create an environment where both staff and students feel a sense of belonging, akin to a second home, one that challenges and values them.

To create an inclusive school culture that cherishes diversity, Dr. Gfroerer emphasizes grounding the school’s mission in its Catholic identity. “By keeping Christ at the center, we acknowledge that all of us are made in God’s image, thereby nurturing a faith-filled environment that fosters Christ,” she said.

Dr. Sara Bruins resting arms on a bookshelf

“I believe relationships start by inviting people to the table – learning about who they are, valuing their perspectives and insight, and finding commonalities that bring us together. Humanness and transparency are important – we are all working together, doing the best we can, to enhance the lives of our students.”

— Dr. Sara Bruins, VCHS Principal

Dr. Sara Bruins

At Valley Catholic High School, Dr. Sara Bruins leads the charge, steering the high school towards a pinnacle of academic excellence. Her visionary leadership has cultivated a vibrant high school community, where students are not only primed for higher education but also inspired to effect positive change in the world.

Dr. Bruins envisions contributing to the long-term success and growth of the school by creating an environment where students find safety in expressing their true selves. This includes providing a rich array of academic and extracurricular activities that challenge their intellect, nurture a profound understanding of their role within a community, and facilitate personal faith formation. Additionally, Dr. Bruins aims to craft a high school experience that instills a desire to become active alumni, contributing to the future generations of Valiants.

To build a positive and inclusive school culture that cherishes diversity, Dr. Bruins emphasizes the paramount importance of fostering genuine relationships. She believes that true belonging is established by authentically connecting with one another, demonstrating a sincere interest in each person, their backgrounds, and beliefs. Dr. Bruins advocates for open and honest conversations, valuing varying perspectives, and encouraging empathy and understanding for situations that may differ from our own. She also recognizes the vitality of celebrating and sharing joyful moments together, emphasizing that schools should be spaces of acceptance and happiness.

Beckie sitting by a piano

“Bestowing the gift of music to young lives is beyond rewarding for our instructors and myself. It is a positive and contagious example of hard work, dedication, commitment sharing, and building the joy of music into our students. If a student continues to be encouraged, their love, creativity, and appreciation will continue to foster a musician for life.”

— Beckie Hocker, VC Music School Director

Beckie Hocker

Beckie Hocker, the Valley Catholic Music School Director, brings a symphony of passion and expertise to her role. Her dynamic approach has transformed the music school into a hub of artistic exploration, nurturing talents of all ages and instilling a deep appreciation for the art form.

In line with her vision for Valley Catholic Music School, Hocker emphasizes collaborative efforts with colleagues in fine arts, aiming for growth in both the music programs within the schools and the music school itself. The ultimate goal is to become the top choice in music education within the community, gaining widespread exposure.

To ensure that the music education at Valley Catholic Music School remains innovative and relevant, Hocker believes in hiring music professionals who are actively engaged in performance, recording, and music education associations. This experiential knowledge is shared with students through recital performances, competitions, and community venues.

Hocker’s philosophy towards music education is deeply personal, stemming from her own musical upbringing. She strives to convey the joy and fun she finds in music

— hoping to inspire students in their practice and skill development. Her approach is gentle yet firm, setting realistic expectations for growth through dedication and practice. Hocker also places great emphasis on sharing musical talents with others, seeking opportunities to perform within the campus and wider community.

The entire Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus community celebrates women leadership and the innovative direction of all five of these women. The Valley Catholic School Leadership Team finds their inspiration through all of the Sisters who have contributed to the more than 120-year ministry of Catholic education on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Campus.

These women leaders embody the Sisters’ Core Value to Celebrate God and Life.


The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and Valley Catholic School recognize these Sisters for their contributions to the more than 120-year ministry of faith-based education on the Sisters’ campus.

Sister Adele Marie Altenhofen
Sister Agnes Beitel
Sister Agnes Coussens
Sister Agnes Marie Vandecoevering
Sister Alberta Schwall
Sister Alison Green
Sister Alodia McHale
Sister André Campau
Sister Angeline Baker
Sister Anna Evers
Sister Annette Huettner
Sister Annunciata Borsch
Sister Antoinette Koenig
Sister Aquinas Reverman
Sister Aurelia Dietmayer
Sister Baptista Bernards
Sister Barbara Ann Klapperich
Sister Barbara Rose Sohler
Sister Beatrice Rigert
Sister Bernadette Ann Sohler
Sister Bernice Marie Hertel
Sister Boniface Prange
Sister Callista O’Connor
Sister Carmel Crop
Sister Caspar Tanzer
Sister Catherine Hertel
Sister Celestine Snider
Sister Charlene Herinckx

Sister Dismaria Lane
Sister Dominic Crowley
Sister Edna Rae Crozier
Sister Edward Mary Curry
Sister Eileen Webb
Sister Elizabeth Ann VanderZanden
Sister Ellen Therese Berger
Sister Emerita Garice
Sister Emily Bomber
Sister Ermelinda vanDomelen
Sister Eugenia Eberhard
Sister Eusebia Vandehey
Sister Evelyn Schwall
Sister Everildis Storey
Sister Fidelis Kreutzer
Sister Frances Zenner
Sister Geraldine Gauger
Sister Germaine Heuberger
Sister Grace Schonlau
Sister Hugh Copenhaver
Sister James Ritchey
Sister Jane Frances Kaufmann
Sister Janet Slingerland
Sister Joan Rigert
Sister John Therese Miller
Sister Josephine Pelster
Sister Juana Gutierrez
Sister Juanita Villarreal
Sister Juliana Monti
Sister Kathleen Boyd
Sister Kathleen Mary Fery

Sister Krista von Borstel
Sister Lawdean Lamberger
Sister Lillian Keating
Sister Loretta Merzenich
Sister Louise Marie Hermsen
Sister Lucille Nibler
Sister Marcella Parrish
Sister Marcine Frank
Sister Marie Bernadette George
Sister Marietta McGinley
Sister Marilyn LeDoux
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart Jacques
Sister Maureen Kalsch
Sister Mildred Wolf
Sister Patricia Lulay
Sister Paula Fox
Sister Pulcheria Sparkman
Sister Raphael Tavelli
Sister Regina Koenig
Sister Rita Watkins
Sister Roberta Kunz
Sister Rose Dolores Costello
Sister Rose Mary Heineck
Sister Sara Goggin
Sister Stanislaus Fox
Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus Ruettgers
Sister Theresa Hathaway
Sister Theresa Lan Nguyen
Sister Theresa Margaret Yettick
Sister Thomas Keogh
Sister Thuy Doan
Sister Veronica Marie Templer
Sister Victoria Nuttman
Sister Vincentia
Sister Winefride Koppert
Sister Xaveria McHugh

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One Comment

  1. I’m in debt to the SSMO for my dorm living experience and educational opportunity at SMVA from 1977- 1979.

    As a teenager, l learned fast about cultural and ethnical diversity and how critical love, inclusion, and active listening are, to building bridges in relationships.

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