One on One: 2010-11 Principal Pam Bylsma

Q: What drew you to RB?

A: Last year I heard that there was the job opening. Someone told me that I’d be great for the job. I’d hear both from people working in the building and people out of RB that I’d be fit for the job. Looking into it, I found that RB is a wonderful school. 

Q: What is your background in teaching?

A: After going to Central Michigan University, I moved to Illinois. I began working at William Fremd High School; I worked as an English and Art teacher for seven and a half years. I also sponsored Cheerleading and then a Juggling Club. By the end of the first year, the principal of the school told me he saw potential in me for administration. I told him I’d consider it in five years. And so five years later, I went to Northwestern University and received a Master of Science in Educational Administration.

When my daughter was born, I stayed home for a couple of years. When I returned to work, I worked at a Psychiatric Hospital. I was an English and Art teacher for high school students who were victims from suicide attempts due to being abused. I was there for three years, and it was an amazing experience.

I then was an English and Art teacher at Downers Grove South High School for two years. Eventually in 1995, I was the Dean of Students at Plainfield High School, and then I was the dean at Hinsdale Central High School, where I’ve worked for 11 years. After five years, though, I became the Assistant Principal, which I work as now.

Q: What kind of things did you bring to your previous schools?

A: As a dean at Plainfield High School, I helped create programs to help students make better choices such as a Peer Mediation Program. It taught them the skills they need to resolve problems they may be going through. There were moments when students would come back to tell me that they had resolved their own conflicts either between family, friends, or themselves. A student once told me that her relationship with her best friend improved because of these skills.

As the program went on, I realized that this was wrong. These students who were in the program were making things right for everyone around them, but I wanted everyone to have the ability to so that all students could be able to resolve their problems. As I moved on to be dean at Hinsdale Central High School, I had a vision to teach everyone these skills. I immediately pursued this vision, and as a result, student-created groups started.

Q: What plans do you have for RB?

A: I’m excited to hear what the students have to say. Their voice is hugely important. It’s not my place to guess what its like to be a student at RB. I want to ask questions like what makes school easier for them or what things bother them. I’ve already started talking to Mr. Passarella because I want to talk to the seniors. They’ll be graduating before I get to start as principal here, and I don’t want to lose the four years of experience they have at RB. I want to have surveys in the fall for the input of what students want. I want to have a shared leadership; adults should not be the only ones choosing how they want the school. It is important to know what it is to be an RB student.