After more than 15 years in education and nearly a decade as the head of St. Michael-Albertville’s most-established elementary school, Sheila Bichler is ready to ride off into the sunset, retiring after nine years as principal at St. Michael Elementary.
“I’ve been really, really lucky,” Bichler said in the midst of one of her final weeks. She’ll officially pack up her desk June 30, which is the end of the academic year. “We have such a great staff here at STME. So many are involved in the community in other ways beyond what they do here, teaching. It’s a great school, and I’m proud to have been a part of this environment. It was a good feeling getting up and coming here to work every day.”
She’ll make way for Delano’s Corey Lahr, husband of longtime assistant basketball coach Steph Lahr and a familiar face to many around the area.
“He’s getting some great kids. All around the district there are great kids here,” Bichler said. “It’s a unique area. It’s rural enough, but it’s also urban enough that the kids get involved in almost anything they want. And the family support here is tremendous. That’s something that hasn’t changed since the first day I got here.”
St. Michael Elementary is a unique building in the district, serving as one of the oldest in STMA. It has served the community at every level – elementary, junior high (middle) and high school. And its history has a place in a lot of people’s minds and hearts.
“We get that a lot,” Bichler said of parents who mention they went to high school or middle school in the building. “They know the school as well as we do.”
Over the last nine years as head of STME, Bichler said standardized testing has changed the landscape of elementary school the most. Even more so than the digital age.
“When it comes to technology, the kids just go with the flow. They’re used to it all, now,” she said. “But the testing and the way it’s jumped to the forefront it different. I think our students have grown by making jumps and gains, and they’re very successful. But have we lost anything [due to testing]? Yes, maybe some pieces of [the educational experience].”
As for what comes next, Bichler bubbles with excitement. She mentions trips to warmer climates, including New Orleans and the Florida Keys.
Her husband, John, who is a Realtor, is also retiring.
“We’ll get to hang out and play all day,” she said with a smile. “The kids here, they get that. They’re ready for summer vacation. I just don’t have to come back to school in the fall anymore.”