Principal
Traci Kessler

Mrs. Kessler, a Nativity alumnus and 1991 graduate of Mercy Cross High School, will follow in the footsteps of beloved longtime principal Sister Mary Jo Mike. Mrs. Kessler has 17 years of experience in education and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Mississippi University for Women, a Master’s in Mild/Moderate Disabilities from William Carey College and a Specialist’s degree in Educational Administration from The University of Southern Mississippi. Kessler is also very active in Nativity BVM Cathedral Parish, where she serves as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and CCD Teacher.

“Being the principal of Nativity BVM Elementary, where my own education started, is a dream come true,” said Kessler. “I am both humbled and honored to be able to carry on the legacy that Sister Mary Jo created and nurtured. I feel blessed to be able to share the Catholic faith with the students, teachers, and parents of Nativity.”

Pre-Kindergarten 3, Teacher
Jackie Murphy Ms. Jackie Murphy

I am a native of Biloxi.  I have worked at Nativity BVM Elementary for 20 years. My first three years were spent as an Assistant Teacher, and for the past 17 years I have been the Lead Teacher in Pre K-3. I have also worked Afterschool Care for the past two years and most recently enjoyed spending this past summer with our Nativity Summer Saints. I have one son, Nicholas, who also attended Nativity BVM Elementary. He is married to Courtney and they have a brand new baby, Harrison, whom I love to spoil! I love the little ones, it is their first experience in a school setting and their minds are like sponges. Watching their eyes light up when they finally understand something is truly a delight. Their sweet hugs and “I Love You’s” are the highlight of my day.

jmurphy@nativitybvm.org

Pre-Kindergarten 3, Assistant/Office/Tutoring
Mrs. Kim Audo

I am a  native of Biloxi, I  graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and received a Masters in Education from William Carey College.  I  joined the Nativity Teaching Team in 1995 with the opening of our Preschool.  I have also taught kindergarten at Nativity and am  currently working with Pre K-3 in the morning and helping out in the office in the afternoon.  I am married to Michael Audo and have three children Miya, Madison and Michael who all also attended Nativity BVM Elementary.  My favorite thing about my job here at Nativity is watching the littlest Saints as they grow! 

kaudo@nativitybvm.org

Pre-Kindergarten 4 Teacher
Marie Papale Mrs. Marie Papale

mpapale@nativitybvm.org

 

Pre-Kindergarten 4 Assistant
Lorena Fulton Mrs. Lorena Fulton

My name is Lorena Fulton and I work at Nativity BVM School as the pre-k 4 assistant teacher. I also teach extracurricular Spanish classes. I enjoy working at Nativity BVM because I love the children. I am a member of Nativity BVM Cathedral Parish since the year 2001. I live with my husband, Gary, two sons, Troy & Trent, my mother, Marie and our pet, Sasha.

lfulton@nativitybvm.org

 

Kindergarten Teacher
Lehwmon Skrmetti Mrs. Lehwmon Skrmetti

Mrs. Lehwmon Ross Skrmetti, a native Biloxian, has taught kindergarten at Nativity BVM School since 1990, after teaching 2nd grade for more than 5 years in Dickinson, TX. Mrs. Skrmetti, a graduate of Biloxi High School, earned an Association degree from Mississippi gulf Coast Junior College, a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, K-8, with a reading endorsement and a Master of Science in Early Education, with a kindergarten endorsement, both from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. During her high school and college years, she worked with young children at multiple day care centers. She and her husband, members of Nativity BVM Cathedral Parish, are the proud parents of three sons, all of whom attended Nativity BVM School, and have two grandchildren.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try!” Dr. Seuss

lskrmetti@nativitybvm.org

 

Kindergarten Assistant
Bonnie Fountain
I attended elementary school at Nativity BVM School and then went on to attend Mercy Cross High School. After receiving my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, I was employed in retail and marketing positions in Biloxi, Gulfport and Houston, TX. I am married to Brent Fountain and we have two boys; Carter and Chase. We are members of Nativity BVM Cathedral Parish and reside in Ocean Springs. I love working with children and it makes my position here at Nativity BVM School such a rewarding experience. I am so pleased to be a part of the wonderful Nativity BVM School family.
Grade 1 Teacher
Naomi Foster

Mrs. Naomi Foster

I have worked at Nativity BVM School for the past 5 years. I came on as the pre-k 4 teacher, then moved to 2nd grade and will teach 1st grade starting in the 2017/2018 school year. I enjoy working at Nativity BVM School because we teach the whole child and we live our Catholic faith each day. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Southern Mississippi and I am a member of Nativity BVM Church. I live with my husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and cat. Teaching at Nativity is a dream come true for me! I attended Nativity BVM as a child and sent my boys here. Nativity school is truly a family where we support each other and embrace our Catholic faith.

nfoster@nativitybvm.org

Grade 1 Assistant
 Jen Byers Mrs. Jen Byers

jbyers@nativitybvm.org

Grade 2 Teacher
Tahler Glisson
My name is Tahler Glisson, and I have been and elementary teacher since 2011. The first year I spent in the public school system and the subsequent years I have spent in Catholic education. As a child, I attended Nativity and I am thrilled to be back and teach in a place I consider home. I am so excited to be the second grade teacher this year and teach the children about the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion! 

I was born and raised in Biloxi and attended Nativity BVM School and Mercy Cross High School. I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I am married to my husband, Chase, and have been blessed with 2 beautiful girls. I am so excited that McKae & Sutton will be Nativity Saints alongside me. We are very blessed!

Nativity school and church are part of my past and present and will be a part of my future. I am very excited to be a Nativity Saint again!!
Grade 3 Teacher
Cheryl Gruich Ms. Cheryl Gruich

I work at Nativity BVM School as the 3rd grade teacher and have worked here for 9 years. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business/Marketing and Certification in K-8 from the University of Southern Mississippi. I am also a National Board Certified teacher. I am a member of Nativity BVM Cathedral Parish and involved with St. Vincent de Paul. I love to travel and cook and I share those experience with my students. I am so privileged to be teaching in such a faith filled and academic environment. I am also so blessed that 3 of my 4 grandchildren go to school at Nativity BVM where I know they are loved, taught well and instilled with confidence and faith in God.

cgruich@nativitybvm.org

 

 Grade 4 Teacher
Mrs. NiCole Talley

 

 

 

Grade 5 Teacher
Mrs. Kimberly Lyons

I am so very blessed to be joining the Nativity family. I am a graduate of Mercy Cross High School Class of 1996, where I began my teaching career in 2004. It feels so good to be back in Catholic education.

I received my bachelor’s degree from The University of Southern Mississippi and my master’s degree from William Carey University.

I am so excited to be teaching fifth grade and look forward to contributing my love of our faith to the children of Nativity BVM.

Grade 6 Teacher
Colleen Kavanagh Mrs. Colleen Kavanagh

“Train a child in the way they should go; even when he is old he will not swerve from it.” Proverbs 22:6

The early years of a child’s life are the foundation for a moral, successful, adult life.  At Nativity, our staff strives to help parents develop Christ-centered, responsible, highly educated young people.  Being in this environment where our children are cared for wholeheartedly is where I love to be.  I can’t imagine teaching anywhere else!

After graduating from USM in 1987 with a major in elementary education and a minor in journalism, I was hired at Nativity as a fourth-grade teacher. Believing that I needed to experience different classroom ages to be a well-rounded teacher, I eventually moved to second grade.  In 1995, I was able to move into the sixth-grade position where I found my true passion.

Sixth graders are the best!  They respect, love, and listen to the adults at our school. They are kind, compassionate, and always reaching to help younger students.  They are creative and full of ideas that we often use in our classroom. They want to learn, experience, and know all they can.  They question everything so that they better understand. They are old enough to recognize injustice, and youthful enough to believe they can solve the problems of the world. They are learning who they can be and how to develop their own unique strengths. They are still playful, and busy, and often challenging, but that is one of the reasons that working with them is so rewarding.  Developing their spiritual and academic gifts, as well as preparing them for their transition to seventh grade is my privilege.

On a personal note-My husband, Danny, and I are life-long parishioners of the cathedral.  We are blessed with a son, and two daughters, and six grandchildren. Over the years, we have been very involved with their lives as scout leaders, youth sport coaches, youth ministry advisors, and religious education teachers.  (I thoroughly believe that being an involved parent makes me a better teacher.) We love the outdoors-camping, swimming, gardening, hiking.

ckavanagh@nativitybvm.org

Library & Media
Kelly Pennell Mrs. Kelly Pennell

I came to Nativity in 2011, after retiring from the Biloxi Public School District. I have formerly taught science, physical education and coached girls’ basketball and track at the junior high level. I am a native of Biloxi and I attended Biloxi Public Schools.  After attending MS Gulf Coast Community College and Delta State University, I earned a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi.I believe, as most of us realize, that the ability to read well is the most important skill that our children must master.  It is not only a necessary component that will enable them to do well in school, but also, serves as a stepping stone that will continue to make them successful in their adult life. Research tells us that good readers can develop vital language skills, can improve their eye-hand coordination, and can enhance their social skills.  I like to quote a friend of mine who said, “The more you read; the better you read.”I have been married to a wonderful man for over thirty years and we are blesses with a daughter and a son.  I enjoy reading, listening to music, being outdoors; and I love water activities such as fishing and snorkeling.

kpennell@nativitybvm.org

Learning Resource
Ms. Patti Thompson

I have been a Special Education teacher at Nativity BVM since January 2017. Prior to coming to Nativity BVM, I worked in the public schools for 17 years where I taught special education and math. I have enjoyed my time at Nativity BVM.  I especially enjoy that the school is faith based . I find great comfort in starting every morning in prayer.  Even though I am a United Methodist, I find the Mass very inspirational and rejuvenating. The great family environment and involvement makes working here very enjoyable. I earned my Bachelor of Science from Belhaven University in Jackson and received my Master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.

My husband and I live in Biloxi with our daughter and granddaughter along with our four legged children Buddy and Charlie. My oldest daughter and her husband live in Ocean Springs along with our two grandsons.

pthompson@nativitybvm.org

 

 EXPLORE/Art Teacher
Zina Puzz
I have lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 1985. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, I received a minor in Gifted Education from The University of Southern Mississippi and I received my Master of Elementary Education from William Carey University.
I am married to a wonderful man, Don Puzz, and together we have three children and four grandchildren. We are members of Nativity BVM Cathedral parish and enjoy our church and school families immensely.
I taught gifted children in Ocean Springs for 31 years and had been retired for a year when the opportunity came to teach the Explore and Art Classes at Nativity BVM School. This has truly been a blessing for me. After retiring, I missed the children terribly and was thrilled to be back in the classroom.
 Choir/Liturgical Music
Terry D. Maddox, M.M.

Native of Indiana, received his Bachelor of Science in Music and Religion with an emphasis in organ performance from the University of Evansville. He also attended Harlaxton College of Grantham, England for a year. Mr. Maddox received a full fellowship and assistantship from Loyola University of New Orleans, Louisiana, where he earned a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting. He is married to Rebecca Rasmussen Maddox, a former politician, a singer, jeweler, and artist. Twelve years of his career, Mr. Maddox served as an educator for three private Christian school systems in the position of Director of Fine and Performing Arts. Currently, he is in his eighteenth year as Director/Administrator of Music and Fine Arts Ministries for Government Street Presbyterian Church of Mobile, Alabama. In this position he serves as Organist, Choir Director, and Administrator of the Music and Fine Arts Ministry Program, of which the Greater Mobile Bay Area Choral Society is a part.  He also offers piano, organ and voice lessons.  For nine years, he has directed the Honor Chorus for youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Alabama with his wife, Rebecca. Additionally, Mr. Maddox serves as Music Director of Touro Synagogue of New Orleans, Louisiana and has done so for the past twenty three years. For the past fifteen years, he served as an Adjunct Professor of Spring Hill College’s Choral and Music Education programs, and conducts studio education programs of music instruction. In the spring of 2007 and again in March of 2009, Mr. Maddox prepared and led a large choral group to Carnegie Hall. The 2007 program was a presentation of Faure’s Requiem Mass. In 2009, with nearly 100 area residents performing or sharing in the experience, Mr. Maddox conducted John Rutter’s Requiem Mass which was performed as the featured evening program in a near capacity Isaac Stern Auditorium. Mr. Maddox has led several “Choir Trips with Friends” to Europe, visiting and singing in Italy, Austria, France, and the Czech Republic. During Mr. Maddox’s career he has had the privilege and opportunity to work with regional and national artist, including Marcia Ball, Kermit Ruffins, Jeremy Davenport, Teresa Anderson, John Boutte, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Dr. Michael White, Paul Schaefer of NBC’s David Letterman Show, the Walter Wolfman Washington Trio, and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, LA.

 School Band/Violin
Dr. Timothy Bergman
I have taught private instrumental music instruction at Nativity BVM Elementary since 2015.  It has been a privilege to work with such fine students, building their musicianship and nurturing a love for music.
Since moving to Gulfport in 2007, I have been an adjunct instructor with Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, music director of the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra (2001-2012), and executive director of the Gulf Coast Symphony (2007-2012) where I conducted its educational concerts.  Since January 2018, I have also been music instructor at Rock U2 Academy of Popular Music in Ocean Springs.
Previously, I served as music director of the Greater Miami Youth Symphonies (1991-1995) and the Louisiana Youth Orchestras (1995-2002); executive director of the Louisiana Alliance for Arts Education (2001-2004) and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and Conservatory of Music (2004-2007); and assistant conductor of the Baton Rouge Symphony (1995-2001).
My wife, Susan, is a music therapist and our son, Ryan, attends Gulfport High School where he is active in the strings program and theater.  Ryan is a member of WINGS Performing Arts of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, so I have frequently volunteered for stage roles and served as music director for their productions.
Degrees were earned at Stetson University in Florida (B.M.), the University of Connecticut (M.M), and the University of Miami (D.M.A.).
Cafeteria
Cafeteria Erica Gnapp, Cook

 

Mrs. Lois Kostmayer

I have been at Nativity BVM for 32 years.   I am married to Harry Kostmayer and we have four children and 11 grandchildren.   We presently have two granddaughters attending Nativity.  In the 32 plus years I have been here at Nativity I have worked in the lunch room as well as the After School Program. I have always enjoyed the atmosphere here at Nativity and love being able to be around the children.

 

Mrs. Martha Montiforte

I had the pleasure of returning to Nativity BVM Schools’ Nutrition Program after a 20 some yr. absence. I have 37 years’ experience in Child Nutrition and began that career here at Nativity in 1978 as a cafeteria cook, a job that allowed me to be home when my children got home from school. I have two children. Richard Jr. is married and has 2 sons. Mandy is also married and has a girl and a boy.

I graduated from the University of Southern MS with a Bachelors’ Degree.   I worked in the public school arena for most of my career starting in Gulfport School District as Assistant to the Director of Child Nutrition. I was the Child Nutrition Director in Ocean Springs School District and the Child Nutrition Director in the Biloxi School District. I decided to wind down my career here at Nativity where it all started. I came back as Nativity’s Supervisor and Manager of the School Nutrition Program. I am on Contract with the State Department of Education, Office of Child Nutrition as a Technical Advisor to smaller school districts in Mississippi.  I am also an instructor for the State Department of Education, Office of Child Nutrition.   After all these years I am well-versed in feeding children! I decided to come back to the Nativity family because I find the atmosphere to be calming and family oriented. Over time our school has endured many ups and downs and through it all we are still at the top of the heap and I am glad I am a part of that heap!!!

mmontiforte@nativitybvm.org

 

Secretary
Cheryl Steinwinder Mrs. Cheryl Steinwinder

I am excited to say that I began volunteering at Nativity BVM School in the 2002-2003 school year! I was hired as the part-time office assistance beginning in 2009 and my role as secretary began in 2013. I am a native of Biloxi and a graduate of Biloxi High School. My husband Freddie and I have two wonderful children together, Blake and Rachel. They attended Nativity! It was a blessing to be a part of this faith filled environment especially  being with them during their time here as students! What a joy it is watching our precious little “Saints” grow from year to year!

csteinwinder@nativitybvm.org

School Nurse
 

 

Bookkeeper
Alison Watts Mrs. Allison Watts

I began working at Nativity BVM School in the 2012-2013 school year. It has been such a blessing to be able to work where my children attend school. I have three children at Nativity, Lila Grace, James and Isabel.  I began my career in accounting at Piltz, Williams, LaRosa & Company in Biloxi. I worked with PWL for 6 years as a senior accountant before leaving to have more time with my children.

nativitybilling@gmail.com

Pastor
 Carver Image 2 Rev. Dennis Carver

I am very blessed to serve the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary community of faith in the role of rector.  It excites me to be part of a Catholic Faith legacy that stems back to 1843 yet continues to strive to provide a faith experience that is relevant to the twenty-first century.  I have the highest respect for the Office of Bishop made sacramentally manifest in his Cathedral Church.  As Tradition teaches us, made manifest in Sacred Scripture, it is the bishop who holds the fullness of the priesthood in which I, the regular priest, share.  Thus, my service as rector outwardly demonstrates my understanding of collaboration and the priestly pledge of obedience made on the day of my ordination.  Being a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I have a familial love for the Cathedral’s parishioners who live so well the multi-cultural sea-side values of South Mississippi.

I am a native of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi who grew up in the solid faith of my parents and the community of Our Lady of the Gulf Parish.  My entire education is from Catholic Schools having attended St. Joseph’s Academy, Our Lady of the Gulf Elementary School, St. Stanislaus College, Loyola University, and Notre Dame Seminary.  I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, a Master’s Degree in Divinity, and post-graduate certification in Ignatian based Spiritual Direction.  I was admitted into the St. Stanislaus Hall of Fame in 2015.

I was ordained to the priesthood in 1994.  I have pastored Sacred Heart Church in Dedeaux and St. Paul Parish in Pass Christian.  With the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I became the founding pastor of Holy Family Parish which comprised the merged parishes of St. Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes in Pass Christian.  During this time, I served as the co-founding pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Long Beach, Mississippi.  I have assisted our three diocesan bishops in the work of Presbyteral Council membership, Vocations Director, membership on the Bishop’s Board of Consulters, Diocesan School Advisory Board, and Chair of the Priest Personnel Committee.  I have assisted Notre Dame Seminary in Spiritual Direction and I teach several classes for men in formation to the deaconate.

I give thanks to Almighty God for the gift of priesthood, delighting in sharing my service to the Lord with others.

dcarver@nativitybvm.org