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WAMS principal retiring in August

June 14, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- If Larry Bricker had become a farmer, his desk wouldn't hold a new stack of poems and essays decorated with crayons.

"He was our own special friend," one says of Bricker.

The children who wrote and read the tributes to Bricker know him as their principal at Waynesboro Area Middle School. But Bricker's career has taken him from Antietam Junior High School to East Junior High School, Waynesboro Area Senior High School and the middle school.

"All of my educational career has been in the district," Bricker said, detailing how he transitioned from classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal several times in 35 years.

He choked up this spring when telling staff that he will retire in August.

In his teenage years, Bricker never thought much about getting off the farm managed by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. That changed when a drought in the 1960s opened his eyes to the factors of farming that can't be controlled.

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He sat in a study hall at the start of his senior year at James Buchanan High School and mulled over the change he felt he needed to make.

"I put up my hand and said, 'I need to see my counselor!'" Bricker recalled, imitating how quickly his hand went into the air.

Bricker, 57, graduated from Shippensburg (Pa.) University in 1972, then returned for his master's degree and principal's certificate. A large pool of social studies teachers led him to drive the Franklin County (Pa.) Bookmobile for 11 months and work for the Franklin County Probation Department for 15 months before being hired at East Junior High School.

Administrators began to encourage Bricker to obtain principal certification just two or three years into his full-time teaching role.

"I considered it, but put it on the back burner. I loved the classroom," Bricker said.

He started the certification program and completed it at the advice of his wife, Lana. The latest transition, from high school principal to middle school principal in 2002, was one Bricker said affords him better opportunities to improve the direction of a child's life.

Seventh- and eighth-graders can be encouraged to set goals that drastically change their attitudes and academic performance, Bricker said. They need to find answers to "where do you see yourself in five years?," he said.

"I've seen that," he said. "We've had some terrific successes."

Bricker is proud that his school hasn't changed its program drastically in response to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests. Others, he said, have created atmospheres where children are "taught to the test" for reading and math.

"I think school is so much more than that," Bricker said. "Not everybody can be a doctor, lawyer ... Some kids by design are not into that, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Lessons in areas like music, graphic design and construction continue to be important, Bricker said.

"I think it's important to have a balanced program," he said.

Bricker, who has two children and a grandson, wants to take six months to fish, hunt and garden before deciding what his own future holds. He felt "it was just time" to retire, but now he finds himself answering the question posed of students -- "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

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