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OLLU alumni play key roles in NEISD

Justin Oxley is a rising star in North East ISD, an award-winning principal at Bradley Middle School who ranks among the best at what he does in South Texas.

The Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP) has named Oxley, 41, the Outstanding Principal in Region 20 for 2013. As a result, Oxley and other Region winners will attend the state TASSP Conference in June in Austin, where the Outstanding Principal in Texas will be announced.

“It is a fabulous honor,” says Oxley, who earned an MEd from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2000. “It’s a testament to the good things happening at Bradley Middle School. I’m proud of the kids and what they do on a daily basis.”

Oxley is one of more than 200 OLLU alumni who serve North East ISD, the second largest school district in San Antonio. Lake graduates hold a range of positions -- from president of the school board (Susan Galindo, MS Organizational Leadership ‘08) and executive director of athletics (Jerry Comalander, MEd ‘69) to reading specialist (Jessica Castaneda, BS Early Childhood Education ‘03) and teacher (Barbara Haag, BS Early Childhood Education ‘03).

Other alumni serve as family specialists, counselors, assistant principals, librarians, speech pathologists, special ed coordinators and coaches. One Lake graduate is a police officer. Another is a social worker.
Barbara Haag teaches fourth grade at West Avenue Elementary School, where she works with a range of students. Some are in special education. Some speak English as a second language. Others are in regular classes. She says The Lake prepared her for success in the classroom and in life.

“My professors were phenomenal role models,” Haag says. “I am extremely well equipped to communicate with parents. The practicum experiences helped me to build my confidence as I worked with children and those relationships blossomed. Of course, I can’t neglect my relationship with my peers. We had the type of education that I only wish all teachers had.”

Jimmy Burkholder (MEd ‘82) serves as director of athletics under another Lake alumnus, Comalander, the executive director for whom Comalander Stadium is named. Burkholder works the business side, supervising the maintenance and rentals of district athletic facilities. He also distributes and collects tickets at all district events.

Burkholder was an assistant coach at Madison High School when he enrolled at OLLU to pursue his master’s degree. He attended night classes and completed his degree in four years. A few years later, Burkholder became the head football coach at Lee High School. “I was excited to be able to finish my master’s,” he says. “I felt like I had accomplished something. I didn’t realize the importance of it at that point in my career.”

The master’s enabled Burkholder to move into administration after he finished coaching.
Oxley enjoyed the same benefit. On the recommendation of his father-in-law, he and his wife Amy moved from Ohio to San Antonio in the late 90s. Justin took a job as athletic director at St. Martin Hall while Amy became a choir teacher at the same school. A conversation with the St. Martin Hall principal persuaded Oxley to pursue his master’s at The Lake.

“I enjoyed the small classes, which forced me to put forth a lot of effort,” Oxley says. “We had wonderful discussions geared toward what we wanted to do.”

After earning his master’s, Oxley became a choir teacher at Garner Middle School, which perhaps made him one of the few educators to teach voice and direct athletics. He later became an assistant principal at Garner before moving to Lee High School and then to Bradley six years ago.

“I’m a rare bird,” Oxley says of his unusual choir teacher/athletic director background. “But it helps me administratively. I really make sure each kid is getting a 360-degree education.”

Thirteen years after graduating from OLLU, Oxley places high value on the education he received. “The master’s at The Lake prepared me to become a principal,” he says.

A principal recognized as one of the best in Texas.