The school day was in full swing around 9 a.m. Wednesday at Wilson Middle School as students made their way to second period, and making her rounds with walkie-talkie in hand to prevent tardiness was Assistant Principal Josephine Bixler.
It’s just one of the ways she immerses herself among students, which is her favorite part of the job. And she said she looks forward to doing the same when she becomes principal of La Crescenta Elementary School in the fall.
“As a teacher, you get to see (students) for 55 or 60 minutes,” Bixler said. “But when you’re an administrator, you get to learn so much more about them, their extracurriculars, their family life, what they like and don’t like. You get a bigger view.”
She joined the Wilson staff as a teacher specialist in 2005 and was promoted to assistant principal the following year. Prior to that, she started her career in education as a teacher in the Burbank Unified School District.
Though she’s enjoyed nearly a decade working with teens, Bixler said she looks forward to overseeing elementary schoolchildren.
Last week, she got to shadow current La Crescenta Elementary Principal Kim Bishop, who’s retiring after nine years leading the school. Bixler said she noticed just how enthusiastic younger students can be.
“(Elementary) students are so refreshingly honest,” Bixler said. “A student came to me and asked me if I like dogs and I said, ‘No, I have a cat,’ and he said, ‘Oh, that’s too bad.’ … It’s just a different kind of honesty. There’s no filters yet; the enthusiasm is different.”
She said she plans to build on what Bishop is leaving behind and doesn’t plan to make any big changes other than continuing to implement new Common Core standards and embedding technology in the classroom, such as developing more lessons around newly purchased HP Chromebooks.
While at Wilson, Bixler got married, earned her doctorate degree and had two children, while also building a family there made up of teachers and students.
She said that as principal at La Crescenta Elementary she plans to build that same sense of family all over again.
“I’m ready to be a part of the community, to get to know families, to get to know the teachers,” Bixler said. “Being at a school is like having a second family, there’s so many relationships to develop.”
She said she’ll miss Wilson’s students because they’ve been kind and warm. She’ll also miss her boss, longtime Wilson Principal Richard Lucas — and all the laughs they’ve shared over the years.
“We’re a real good team and she’ll be missed by the staff and students, but it’s a good promotion for her,” Lucas said. “She’ll do a wonderful job at any principalship wherever she is. La Crescenta is lucky to have her.”
One important lesson Bixler has picked up from teachers who’ve been at Wilson for decades is how they’ve revised their teaching styles over the years to better connect with students. Bixler said that’s one piece of advice she’d like to leave behind for her successor, who’s yet to be named.
“Wilson is a great place to be. Don’t be afraid to make it your own,” she said.
Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.