Thrust alone into the adult world at 16, she is proof that if you work hard you really can make dreams come true.

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Bridget Baublits is proof of something else as well – teachers make a difference. So she is only slightly hesitant to leave her role as fourth grade teacher to take on the task of principal at Los Olivos Elementary School.

In her freshly rearranged and newly deodorized office, she admits to being slightly nervous. But that is belied by the broad smile and definite approach she has in mind for the future. As with all California schools there may be hard times still ahead, but they are geared up for the new year with the same staff-to-student ratio, the identical top-notch programs and are bursting with enthusiasm for the future. There are small changes in the roles some staff members will have, but all of the faces will be familiar ones.

“We are really focused on keeping programs, keeping K-6 science and keeping music and art,” Baublits says. The Los Olivos School Foundation is helping keep the school’s technology basics strong while the Parent Teacher Association is significantly responsible for keeping a number of art programs going, despite economic woes.

Parents’ greatest concerns, says Baublits, revolve around their wanting the best possible education for their students. Children need to feel included and have a variety of programs at their disposal. Baublits is staged to meet those concerns.

She hopes that parents will step up to do their part as well. Helping with homework, reading to their kids and being involved with the PTA are all easy ways for parents to make a big difference. “Talk to your child’s teacher and know what is going on at school,” she advises.

“I always felt like as a teacher I had such a personal impact on my students, and I thought I might lose that in administration,” she says, but what she is coming to realize is that her new role might actually expand what she can do to make a difference in young lives.

She doesn’t go into the details of her past because they are irrelevant. What is most pertinent is the knowledge that by engaging students positively at school, the educational community can often offset some of the trauma students sometimes suffer at home.

“I came from a rough background,” she explains. “I learned from experience that if you can impact a student’s life now, it can make a lifelong difference. No matter where you come from you can achieve your dreams.”

Until just recently, Baublits comes from Morro Bay, commuting to Los Olivos for eight long years. But with her husband and two sons rock-solid behind her, Baublit’s husband gave up his job and they moved to town. One son will attend Los Olivos Elementary in the middle school, the other Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

“They’ve had to leave the school base they’ve had their whole lives,” she says of her boys. “But they’re excited to live in a home where they can have their own rooms.”

Baublits pauses for a moment reflecting. She knows they have given up a lot for her, and struggles to reduce her appreciation into words. In some ways it will be a hard transition for them, even though she hauled them with her on her fourth grade trips, so her boys do know some kids here. “And, at least he’s still a Pirate,” she says of her older son, “-- just different colors.”

And while they miss the beach, they are finding plenty of things to do in the Valley that they enjoy.

They’ve made their way up to Red Rock and have been doing a lot of bike riding. And while she doesn’t personally surf, the men in her family do, but that isn’t something they will have to give up.

And while Baublits is going to have to come up with some new personal goals – now that she’s met that all-important one – there are still some old dreams she has in mind.

“When we celebrate 20 years of marriage in a couple of years, our youngest will have just graduated . . .” She smiles wistfully. “Maybe then we take that trip to Tahiti.”

struax@syvjournal.com