The longest-serving Catholic school principal in the Diocese of Burlington is retiring after spending his entire educational career at Bennington’s Catholic elementary school.

David Estes graduated from North Adams (Massachusetts) State College in 1979 and then began teaching at Sacred Heart School, now known as The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales. In 1987 he was appointed principal.

He has served the school for 42 years.

“I will truly miss the children, their parents and the teachers and staff who have been an important part of my ministry and have walked this journey with me,” Estes said. “Our school is strong and vibrant. It is in good hands, and the administration and leadership are committed to Catholic education in Bennington.”

In his time at the school, enrollment has grown to more than 200 students.

In addition to his responsibilities as principal, Estes teaches middle school mathematics and social studies. He has taught music and technology, coached basketball and soccer teams, directs all the school Christmas programs and produces a middle school musical every spring. In 2015, the school received national attention when its production of “Lion King Jr.” was featured in a Catholic News Service article.

“The presence of God in any community provides a spirit of joy and yearning to be one with Him. When I pray with the children and the faculty every day, I am reminded of God’s love in each of them,” said Estes, a married father of two. “Life isn’t always easy, and we are going to be faced with many challenges. … Jesus suffered, died, was buried, yet rose again. There is joy in knowing that there is hope in the resurrection.”

Estes often tells his students to look for Jesus in everyone they meet. “This is what makes our school, a community where I have served for 42 years, so special — Jesus is truly present,” he said. “He is at the heart of everything that we do. You can feel His love all around us. Who wouldn’t want to be embraced by that?”

An active member of Sacred Heart St. Francis Parish in Bennington, he has served in music ministry for 42 years. He was music director at the former Sacred Heart Church from 1982 to 1987 and continues to direct his parish’s contemporary music ensemble that provides music for Sunday liturgies.

He also has taught in the parish religious education program, preparing second graders to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist for nine years. He prepared young adults for confirmation for several years.

A member of the Parish Council for 33 years, Estes has served as secretary and recording clerk.

He has served on the Board of Trustees for the Bennington County Choral Society and recently finished a six-year term on the Independent School Commission at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. He was named one of WNYT Channel 13’s Top Teachers in 2015 and received the Spirit of Holy Cross Award presented by the Congregation of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers in 2019.

“Look for the positive in everything that you do,” Estes advised. “That’s the light of Jesus shining through.”

Although he doesn’t have definite post-retirement plans, he hopes to enjoy what each new day brings and to continue to find Jesus in every moment.

“David’s ministry has been a blessing to the Catholic community in the Bennington area as well as to the area as a whole,” commented Jeanne Gearon, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington. “His leadership has inspired many to give their best in all they do. His educational vision has kept The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales wholeheartedly focused on ensuring every student’s God-given gifts and talents are nurtured and allowed to blossom.”

She said he epitomizes the definition of “servant leader,” and for this “he has and will always have my deepest admiration and gratitude as this truly is how we reflect the Heart of Christ to others.”