Replacing a beloved principal is never easy, and the task is made immeasurably more difficult when the principal you’re replacing has died unexpectedly.
That’s the position Christy Rodriguez was put in last year when Bethel High School Principal Adam Cox tragically passed away during the school year.
Rodriguez, who had been an assistant principal at Bethel High, took over on an interim basis and was later hired to be the school’s permanent principal. She said the days and weeks after Adam’s passing were extremely difficult, but she took strength from her staff.
“It was tragic and shocking and totally unexpected to have something like that happen,” Rodriguez said. “What was amazing was to see our administration team and our teachers pull together to be able to continue to carry on with the vision that was set forth here.”
Now in her first full year leading the school, Rodriguez is taking special care to keep Adam’s vision for BHS alive while also putting her own stamp on the building.
“His vision was to create a culture and climate for kids where everyone is part of it and proud to be a Brave. We’re going to continue with that motto, ‘Once a Brave, always a Brave,’” she said.
What that motto means, in part, is that being a member of the Bethel community doesn’t end when students walk across the stage at graduation. Rodriguez has made it her mission to ensure that all students — no matter their post-graduation plans — are set up to succeed.
“Whatever their goal might be, whether it’s starting at a university or doing an apprenticeship, I want them to be successful because we’ve prepared them for it,” she said.
Rodriguez grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where she spent her childhood hiking and exploring in the state’s vast wilderness. She was a good student who was involved in a number of clubs and activities, including Future Business Leaders of America and Key Club, but the thought of becoming an educator didn’t enter her mind.
Her first foray into education came when she began volunteering at a Birth to Three Developmental Center working with kids with disabilities. She fell in love with the job and decided she wanted to become a special education teacher.
“I loved seeing kids making gains and watching their progress. That was exiting to me,” she said.
Rodriguez spent the next 15 years working in special education before heading to Seattle University for grad school to study administration. Her initial plan was to become a special education director, but after completing her internship in a middle school she realized she loved working with students too much to be in an administrative building all day.
She arrived in Bethel in 2015, and she is excited to grow both professionally and personally. Above all, she wants to continue building off what Adam Cox began by offering BHS students and teachers the best possible learning environment.
“We want kids to create relationships with their teachers and feel like they belong, which will open the doors for them to achieve and have success in school,” she said.