Meet Steven Rufe

Education, 2012

Current Position: Director of Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports in The School District of Philadelphia


Story Last Updated: April 2022
Current Position Updated: April 2022

Journey to GMercyU

Steven Rufe applied and was accepted to several colleges when searching for his new home to study education. What sold him on attending GMercyU was the opportunity to be in a triple certificate program. Of his choices, GMercyU was the only school to offer such a program.

"At the end of my four years at GMercyU, I was able to have certificates in Elementary, Special, and Early Childhood Educaion and that was the factor that sealed the deal and had me commit to GMercyU," Steven said.

Involvement on Campus

Steven can be described as one of the most active students on GMercyU's campus. He served as the Co-Founder and Co-President of the Special Education Club, President of the Education Club, and A Scholar in Service to PA through Campus Ministry. In this role, he helped to create weekly partnerships with Cradles to Crayons and the Lamb Foundation. Steven also served as an Orientation Chairperson and a Griffin Ambassador. 

On top of the many clubs Steven was involved in, he also participated in service trips. He attended the Mercy Meets the UN Conference and was a member of the first ever group to attend the GMercyU Pilgrimage to Dublin, Ireland. Through Campus Ministry, Steven attended two Alternative Spring Breaks (ASB) in Laredo, Texas and Cincinatti, Ohio. As a graduate, he hosted an ASB group in his apartment in New York City and for three consecutive years, hosted an ASB group in San Carlos, Arizona. 

"Simply put, the people and the opportunities were my favorite part about GMercyU. Some say attending a small school limits you; I don't agree. GMercyU provided me with the opportunities to rise to the occasion, see a need, and find a way to meet it," Steven said. "At GMercyU, I was able to explore my interests and actualize them. GMercyU gave me an opportunity to move beyond my comfort zone and explore the world outside of suburban, PA."

"The people were amazing, too. I had professors who cared, who wanted to be a part of the Mercy Community to enact meaningful change, and strived to push the world forward. I have so many fond memories of great professors and GMercyU professional staff who impacted my life for the better."

Education Program Experience

Assistant Professor of Education Mary Jo Pierantozzi, MS served as Steven's academic advisor during his time at GMercyU. Ms. P's influence guided Steven through the program to the end with three certificates and a minor in Psychology. She held each of her students to a high standard and helped them to find their true passion for education. For Steven, that passion is "the desire to be a part of positive systemic change."

In Connections Over Compliance, a book Steven read recently on education, he says that the author contends that all educators should not lower their standards or change expectations. Instead, they should be "warm demanders."

"When I think of Ms. P, I think of the term 'warm demander.' Ms. P had high expectations for her students and she met them where they were at," Steven said.

Student Teaching

Steven interned at a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations and completed his student teaching in two locations during his senior year. The first was the Cooke Center for Learning & Development in New York City for his special education placement.

"Although the school in which I was student teaching was a private education school, it was located within the walls of a public school. I got to see and experience firsthand the difficulties students attending school in NYC experienced," Steven said.

The second was in a 5th and 6th grade classroom at St. Charles Catholic School located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation for his elementary placement. The school was headed by a Sister of Mercy principal, Sister Georgia, who also served as Steven's Mercy Associates Program Mentor.

"It was during my time living on the reservation on the ground of St. Charles School that I learned what it was like to be a part of a community - the Mercy Community," Steven said.

Steven completed his student teaching with Sister Anne, a Sister of Mercy from Philadelphia, and under the leadership of Sister Georgia. Sister Anne and Sister Georgia quite literally opened up their home to Steven during his time in Arizona. Steven said he "learned what it meant to be a drop in the bucket living in community with a local group of people and learning as much from them (if not more) than they learned from me."

"It was the experience that eventually led me back to the reservation to work in the school's public system at Rice Elementary School," Steven said. 

Favorite Part About Working in Education

"Working in education is living and breathing Mercy - it's the opportunity to be part of the drops in the bucket enacting meaningful change," Steven said.

Despite public education being an uphill battle, Steven said it is on that is very rewarding. He is able to see and live through experiences where students are exposed to equitable and positive learning environments, experience belonging, and create lasting relationships.


Steven currently works as the Director of Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) in The School District of Philadelphia. In this role, Steven "set the vision for our positive, prosocial programming that enables school leadership teams to set, with their school community, positive school norms and skills that they teach and reteach to students." He is in a supervisory role in which he sets the vision and manages a team of over 20 people that support over 100 schools in the district. Steven's team also provides coaching, training, and support to enact acknowledgement systems so students feel they are entering into a safe and welcoming environment. Lastly, his team helps to provide systems for responding to concerning behaviors, ways to track them, and support for local leadership teams.