Local teacher retires with career contributions to overcome illiteracy
MUNCY – Chalk dust swiftly glides through the air as eleventh graders loudly laugh and gossip about the upcoming summer, just days away; the school bell rings, and the students quickly rush out the door in an excited panic, desperate for a breath of sunlit air after six hours of classes. The teacher gradually stands up and gathers her belongings. She picks up her notebooks, pens, and memorabilia from her students, and gazes around the room, full of quiet, empty desks. She walks to the doorway, turns off the lights, and closes her classroom door one last time.
Daryl Bixler’s career as a teacher began at Penn College when she worked part-time in Academic Development. In 1985, a full-time job at Muncy High School opened, and she was excited. “I always wanted to teach at a small school,” Bixler explained. Throughout her years in Muncy, she’s taught every single grade in the high school, except for seventh. However, when she began teaching eleventh grade, something struck her.
“I enjoy teaching eleventh grade,” Bixler commented. Many students fully enjoyed her classes, filled with preparation for the SATs, as well as college-level English, itself. Every day consisted of strange vocabulary that some students could barely pronounce, followed by discussions of famous literature, such as The Pearl by Steinbeck, and The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald.
Well-known throughout the school, Bixler’s contributions to the Muncy community go beyond just her classes. At one point in time, Lycoming County was the “only county without an adult literacy program.” Bixler quickly changed that by establishing the Lycoming County Literacy Project, in which she, and other passionate teachers, helped adults finally learn how to read, as well as learning literary techniques.
Although Bixler’s retiring, she plans to “stay in the area for now.” She dreams to move somewhere warmer, maybe Maryland. Until then, she plans to ride her bike a lot more as well as play more tennis and read more. “Now, I get to read books for my own personal pleasure, and not for tests,” Bixler laughs. “I got a big bucket list!” Though Bixler plans to move, she will still return to the small town of Muncy. “I have family roots here,” she explains, “I just want to branch out a little.”
Throughout the years, Bixler not only taught, but learned many things as well. “I learned a lot from the students,” she said. “I learned that people have a lot more potential than what others think they have.”
Her favorite memory of her students is, in fact, “when students surprised themselves, and me, in writing. My biggest surprise was when students accomplished something they didn’t think they were capable of. It really blew me away.”
Bixler understood that there was so much talent hidden within the students at Muncy High School particularly in the writing area. To her, there was nothing more exhilarating than that talent surfacing for the first time in the students’ lives. However, when Bixler peeks into the past, she realizes that there is one thing that she would change: “I wish I’d get to know the students better on a personal level,” she admits. At the time, she was constantly focused on students readying themselves for college. “It’s funny in hindsight,” Bixler contemplates, “What you do at the time is all about business.” However, Bixler still smiles and admits that she’s met many great students throughout the years some who stayed after class to have just a quick few-minute-conversations with her, and to her, those special moments were enough.
Daryl Bixler contributed to the Muncy community in so many ways many students remember her, particularly in helping them with the SATs and the vocabulary; yet, there are still memories of small, yet intellectual conversations between students and a teacher. “I always loved my job,” Bixler concludes. “It’s a career that I’ve loved, and I know that I’ve been blessed by it.”