Brenda Tener doesn’t travel far each morning before memories of her school days come flooding back.
Tener, 57, pulls into the parking lot of St. Philip Neri Catholic School, and those warm recollections of yesteryear begin to surface:
She remembers being taught by nuns who wore long habits and wrote on green chalkboards.
She remembers being a kindergartner who worried, as young children do, that she would not be able to read from the big red book that first-graders had to read from when it became her turn. And she recalls being comforted when she saw her older sister, a middle-schooler, in the cafeteria.
These days, it’s back to the future for Tener, the principal of St. Philip Neri, 1107 Felix Place. Tener became the school’s leader at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. She said the post feels like coming home. “It was a God thing. I just feel like I was kind of led here,” Tener said in recent interview.
One of ‘Billie’s girls’
Tener said she grew up about a half- mile from the school, and her family had moved to the area because the church had started a new school in September 1954.
She said her father, Leonard Koos, a World War II veteran, was one of the men who helped support the church in numerous ways, from helping to build the school’s sound system to calling the bingo numbers on bingo night.
Tener said her mother, Billie Koos, helped organize baked goods for the school snack bar, started a St. Vincent de Paul aid closet and, for many decades, coordinated the Mobile Meals effort that reached many in Midwest City.
Tener said she and her four sisters were known as “Billie’s girls,” and when she attended a church event to be introduced as the new principal, that name came up, just as she knew it would.
She said she credits her parents, now deceased, with instilling in her a love of Catholic education.
Tener said this passion for an education undergirded by the Catholic faith tradition was the reason she knew early in life, possibly even as a student sitting in Sister Gabriel’s second-grade class, that she wanted to be a principal of a Catholic school.
“I knew from a very early age that I would someday be connected to Catholic education,” she said. To get to return to her alma mater was thrilling.
“I loved it here, and I still do,” Tener said, smiling. She said she’s not alone: There are numerous second- and third-generation students at St. Philip Neri, and it is because there have always been “excellent teachers” there.