Stephen Haessler was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was baptized in the St. Robert’s Roman Catholic parish community and attended St. Robert’s Catholic elementary school. He graduated from Dominican High School.
In college Professor Haessler studied history, education, and economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and went on to earn a doctorate in urban education specializing in curriculum and instruction with a minor in economics at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
Haessler recalls what it was like in his early years, growing up in the Midwest. “I remember on Fridays our whole neighborhood gathered for ‘block rosaries.’ After saying the rosary together with neighbors, kids played while parents socialized until the streetlights came on. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the communion of saints, and in Catholic culture.”
Haessler began his teaching experience in public schools outside of Milwaukee in the Waukesha community. Starting out teaching history, he became increasingly interested in learning more about economics and statistics. In 1987, Professor Haessler was appointed to occupy the endowed chair in economic education, a new position at the Jesuit-sponsored preparatory school, Marquette University High School in his hometown. Haessler occupied this position for two decades.
Haessler taught Advanced Placement Microeconomics, Advanced Placement Macroeconomics, Advanced Placement Statistics, and Advanced Placement Human Geography, along with a few freshman world history courses, “when the good Jesuits let me,” while at MUHS. He spent 1994-5 in Milan, Italy, on sabbatical with his family, and, in collaboration with his wife, Midori Snyder, set up the first internet simulation between students at the American School of Milan and Bocconi University. This constituted an early experience in online education, a passion of Professor Haessler’s that has grown over the years.
In 2007, Haessler became a senior fellow at The Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. During the next four years, Haessler traveled around the United States visiting Catholic schools. He authored a set of twelve, stand-alone supplementary lessons for secondary teachers and students entitled “Apostles and Markets (A&M).” Intended for both theology and social studies audiences, A&M incorporated core principles from Catholic social doctrine and related concepts from social science. A&M lessons received a nihil obstat from Patrick Russell, Ph.D., assistant professor of scripture studies at the Sacred Heart School of Theology, and an imprimatur from the then Archbishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan, now Cardinal Dolan of New York. Haessler plans on a major revision and update of these lessons in digital form, more imbued with themes from his new intellectual home, the neo-scholastic school of economic thought. “You really can’t beat the A-Team in economic thinking,” said Haessler, referring to the ideas of Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas on economics as a subset of moral philosophy.
In 2009, Professor Haessler joined forces with Jeff Hausman, the president and founder of the Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy, a member-based online service organization for Jesuit high schools around the country. The organization, recently renamed the Arrupe Virtual Learning Institute, has grown considerably and serves both Jesuit and Catholic diocesan high schools around the United States, and now in Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Haessler is currently training his successor to take over in the spring of 2021 as Chief Academic Officer.
Haessler is excited about the power and potential of online learning in the K-12 realm. “During the years at Arrupe Virtual, I’ve seen online education done well, and it is a beautiful thing.”
As the new principal of the St. Thomas Aquinas Distance Learning Program, Haessler wants to bring parents, students, and teachers together to make STADLP a model program, serving the education mission of the Church and of families interested in first-rate Catholic education.