Six questions with Bridges High Principal Lyn Bair
The Post Independent continues a series of interviews with high school principals in the Roaring Fork School District. This week, Bridges High School Principal Lyn Bair, a veteran of the district, talks about the challenges and joys of teaching at an alternative school.
In your 15 years at Bridges and 25 years with Roaring Fork Schools, how has your approach to educating the frequently overlooked troubled and at-risk teenagers changed?
I have maintained a strong belief in choice, but have become more committed to offering safer, healthier, directed choices to students. I continue to believe in living with compassion, but have been engaged in being more restorative with students. I have adjusted my stance from, “I will show my students respect,” to, “I will gain the respect of my students.”
Over the years I have become more aware of the array of issues that cause our students stress. I am more concerned about trauma and teaching resilience. I continue believing that people deserve the right to adjust the course of their life, or perhaps be given the opportunity to start that life over.
Bridges High School provides that restart for many students. I feel strongly that all students can learn if we as their teachers are willing to be responsive to their needs. We can’t afford to continue to teach in a cookie-cutter way. Our students have different gifts than their parents and grandparents, so we must be ready to teach them in unconventional ways.
Many students are overlooked in our schools. Some keep a low profile doing just enough work to not get noticed; they don’t enjoy school but they are compliant. Others find little joy in learning but are more open about their dislikes so they skip school and fail classes — then they get noticed.
Bridges High School is here to support all types of students. At Bridges, we listen to our students and their families, and we work to form quality relationships. We meet every learner where they are and encourage them to reach their own dreams.
What are some unexpected challenges that you’ve encountered as Bridges principal?
The biggest challenge as the principal of Bridges High School is to convince people in our communities that the students who attend are wonderful, brilliant, masters of overcoming obstacles, and worthy of community esteem.
I have worked hard over the years to change the community perception of our school and students. I believe that real change can occur when people are willing to discard prejudice and preconceptions of who attends an alternative school and instead see the value that our young adults are adding back to their communities by re-engaging in education, giving community service, and trying to make a positive difference for themselves and their families.
In addition to your work as principal, you teach art history for a University of Colorado dual-enrollment program. How can the study of art history help inspire at-risk high school students to achieve academic goals?
I love art history! But I’m not sure that it is the subject that all students need to learn or be exposed to. Rather, all students deserve to be around teachers that love what they teach.
If anything, it is my enthusiasm for sharing knowledge that I hope to transfer, whether that is about Leonardo da Vinci or solving algebraic problems. The CU Succeed program strives to help at-risk learners demonstrate college ready skills.
I love art history and if I can help define a college major for a student, great; but, if by teaching art history I can help students read and write and think at a higher level, and create for themselves a love of learning, even better.
Would you describe a few of your most rewarding moments at Bridges?
For the past several years, Bridges High School seniors have participated in an exit interview. They share why they came to Bridges and what they have learned. They talk about the obstacles they have encountered. They share about their future plans. These interviews are precious and I get to hear the stories of our extraordinary graduates.
Bridges High School graduates know how to better their lives, and I have complete faith that they will continue improving their future families and their greater communities.
I am delighted to have worked with wonderful people over the past 15 years. They are talented, outgoing, introspective, intelligent, witty, opinionated, and dedicated. I am not the same person I was when I started working at Bridges High School, mostly because of the people I have worked with. I hope that I have internalized the lessons that many have offered to me and that what I return to the world is more thoughtful and gracious.
Opening our redesigned building has definitely been a highlight. I am pleased with the spaces we created and the way the environment supports our school mission and vision. I loved being part of the process for this change and the opportunity it offered for a new look at learning. I was touched by the community support at our open house and loved receiving praise from the school board.
What do you see as the greatest challenges Roaring Fork teachers face?
Earning respect for the profession they have chosen, and earning a competitive wage for the work they do. The reason this challenge is vital to our Roaring Fork communities is that we are raising future leaders for our cities, states and nation. If we invest in the people that are tutoring our students today, we will be training leaders who will be better prepared to successfully guide and inspire others in our quickly changing world.
What is one thing you wish freshmen knew or understood before starting high school?
I wish freshmen knew more about their own strengths and weaknesses. I wish they could talk about their future story and really believed that their dreams can be achieved through effort and hard work.
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