Michael Armato loves his job as principal at St. Anne elementary school in Dixon, so he wasn’t on the lookout for a new job, but when he saw an opening for athletic director and dean of students at St. Bede, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“To see St. Bede Academy, a school with great tradition, have an opening for athletic director/dean of students, that’s right up my alley,” Armato said. “I applied and was really fortunate there was a great connection with the people there. To be involved in a historic Catholic high school is a dream come true for a Catholic school kid who loves athletics and serving others.”
Armato’s Catholic school roots began at St. Rita grade school in Rockford where he later got his start as a physical education teacher.
He graduated from Boylan Catholic High School before going on to Rock Valley Community College and Rockford College.
Armato also has a master’s degree in sports management from the United States Sports Academy and a master’s in educational leadership from Western Governors University.
Armato has served as an administrator at Durand junior and senior high schools, Aurora Central Catholic High School and in the Rockford school district.
“He has a great demeanor about him and a lot of great experience,” said current St. Bede athletic director/assistant principal Nick McLaughlin, who is taking over as the school’s principal next year. “He’s worked in Catholic schools so he understands the history and tradition that come with working at a Catholic school but he also has big school experience from being in Rockford. We’re hoping he can bring some of the systems they use in the public schools to St. Bede and continue to make investments in our program so we can continue to compete at a high level.”
After working in Rockford public schools, Armato decided he wanted to return to Catholic education.
“After eight years in Rockford, I needed to take a step back from administration,” Armato said. “I took some time that following year to really figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I realized my heart is in Catholic education, so I was fortunate to get the job as principal at St. Anne.
“I’m a faith first person. I cherish my Catholic upbringing and my Catholic faith. To be able to, God willing, finish my career at a Catholic high school, serving and mentoring students, is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Armato said he will bring a “customer service” approach, a positive attitude and a team-oriented approach to the Academy.
“Being a private school, parents send their children there for their faith, for the structure of the school and for the climate of the school,” Armato said. “They also have to invest financially. Without families sending their students, the school doesn’t exist. So first and foremost, I will bring customer service to the position. I’m a believer in a servant leadership approach. While I might supervise coaches and students, I in fact, work for them and our families. If they need me to do something, they tell me what they need and I do it out of service.
“I’m also going to bring a very joyful approach to everything I do at the school. I look at it this way, being a practicing Catholic, I get to live out my faith, I get to do it in an environment that encourages that living testament and I get to work with young men and women and help mentor them in their lives. I’m going to cherish every moment I spend with students, staff and families because we all share that mission.”
McLaughlin will take over as principal for Michelle Mershon, who held the position for more than two decades.
“St. Bede has a great history,” McLaughlin said. “Mrs. Mershon has done a great job leading the school for the last 23 years. I want to continue to build upon the legacy she has established at St. Bede.
“In my time as assistant principal and athletic director, the big thing was making sure we continued to make improvements to our facilities and we helped our kids grow athletically but also academically and spiritually. I’m hoping that is something we can continue to do.”