Michelle Nilsen

She has been in the high school assistant role the last 4 years

  LYNDEN ­— Bernice Vossbeck Elementary has a new principal for the 2020-21 school year and beyond, and the new person was close at hand.

  Michelle Nilsen has spent the past four years as the assistant principal at Lynden High School and will begin her role at Bernice Vossbeck in July. 

  She will be taking over the role from Wendy Barrett, who has served as interim BVES principal the last two years. 

  The application and hiring process took place entirely online — as the COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly everything — which presented its own challenges, Nilsen said.

  “I had to do my best to try and express who I was virtually on a screen,” she said. 

  Nilsen interacted with as many as 25 to 30 people on a virtual call providing feedback to her throughout the process.

  The Lynden School Board approved the hire of Nilsen at its May 14 board meeting. 

  Making the change from working with high schoolers to elementary students will give Nilsen a new career challenge. 

  “It’s going to be a great adventure and it’ll be a steep learning curve,” Nilsen said. “I’ve primarily worked with middle school and high school students, but I’m super excited to work with little kids.”

  Nilsen said a great team is already in place at Bernice Vossbeck that she now gets to work with. It’s part of what attracted her to the job in the first place in addition to wanting to support the school district. 

  “They’re doing a lot of really great work right now and I’m anxious to get in there and support teachers and remove whatever obstacles might be in place for them,” she said. “I’m excited to welcome those kids back.”

  Nilsen believes that a lot of social-emotional learning is going to have to be rebuilt because of how things have changed for kids, families and staff. That’s when schools do actually get back into an in-class setting — whether that happens in the fall, or later. 

  “I think my counseling background prior to administration is a great fit for that,” Nilsen said. “I’m excited to do that work of bringing them back into a safe environment, jumpstart that learning and close those gaps we’re going to have from this past 10 weeks or so.”