It wasn’t a job she intended to have. An assistant principal at Connellsville Area Junior High School for the past 16 years, Andrea was comfortable in this support position. But when the district made budget staff cuts this year, she was called to serve at the top and to do it, alone.
“My lane is being an assistant. But with all these cuts, I told myself, ‘Others lost their jobs. Shut up and step up,’” she said.
So well before the sun rises, Mrs. Michaux, principal, prepares for the day ahead.
“I begin each day at 4:45 a.m. by making coffee and spending devotional time listening to Joyce Meyer, the audio Bible or Gospel music on Spotify until 5:30 a.m. I pray, ‘Don’t let any intruders be in my building. Give me wisdom.’
Those people include guidance counselor, Jamie Bielecki-Quinn. “She has become my right hand person and let me tell you, she’s afraid of no one. Jamie makes me confident.”
As hundreds of seventh graders ascend the stairs at the start of the school day, there’s no doubt just who is in charge. With the eye of a hawk and hands on hips, Mrs. Michaux stands firmly in the front foyer keeping watch as the crowd of students head to homeroom.
Her job is to see trouble before it happens. The crowd is large, but there are some who catch her eye and say hello. She replies, “Good morning, baby doll,’ generating smiles in return.
The principal’s happiest time of the day, she said, is lunch, where she continues to keep watch over students. And that’s because in the cafeteria where the staff is doing more with less, there’s now a little more to go around.
“This program has been such a blessing. I love to be around the students when they are eating. They appreciate every bite.”
When trouble does brew during the day and students find themselves on the opposite side of Mrs. Michaux’s desk, they may end up with a detention or even a suspension. One thing is for sure – their parents won’t have to wait until they get home to find out about it.
“I’ll call the parent while the child is sitting there and start the conversation with, ‘Your son got himself into a most difficult position.’ I talk to Jamie about the value of getting to mom and dad first. If I’m proactive, it’s a better outcome.”
Some of those parents had Mrs. Michaux in the classroom, where she taught senior English for the first sixteen years of her career. “They feel they know me and they back me up. God is with me.”
For the Love of the Language
They also acknowledge her impact on their lives. “A mom came into the school office to enroll her son, and said, ‘It’s because of you that I am a technical writer. My life was enriched by you.’ How it humbles me.”
It also reminds her of how she got there.
“Loving the King’s English is what took me into the classroom. I love when people use the language perfectly. I taught students more than English. I brought proper grammar and etiquette into the classroom.”
What have her students taught her? “Not to take myself too seriously. It’s OK to laugh. It’s OK when they imitate me. It’s a compliment. They taught me to love myself and that I have a lot to offer.
Every year, because of them, I had more confidence.”
That confidence took root growing up in a family with a strong Christian faith. “I was raised by a father who was the pianist and Sunday School superintendent and a mother who was the cook and church secretary.
She can thank her parents too for her husband, Ronald, a coal miner whom she met in church.
“My dad brought Ronald home one day after church for dinner. I thought, ‘He is gorgeous!’ It was actually a trap! Every couple weeks, my mom would make nice meals then she and dad would leave, so it looked like I had made the dinner!”
The trap worked. Andrea and Ronald, who is now pastor of By Faith Ministries, have been married for the last 33 years. They have two grown children, Blake and Elise. “We are raising children who are sold out to Jesus Christ. They put God first in their life. God is so good to us.”
What’s the secret behind their strong marriage? “We are considerate of each other and we spoil each other. For example, I don’t pump gas. I am driven and picked up from school. And I do things for him. We put each other first.
Marriage is a God thing, not a man thing. As Ronald shared with a couple he married recently, ‘There are three people in a marriage. God is always at the center.’
Making Right Choices
The fact that I’ve made good choices is because Jesus is the center. My faith guides me to good choices. Choosing to be an educator and being able to do that right here at home for the past 32 years – that’s God.”
You might say it’s a combination of God Power and Girl Power that brought her to this place in her life.
Going to Seton Hill University made me proud to be a girl. I’m just a girl from South Connellsville and yet I am a woman among women most blessed. I feel so privileged to be a black female in Fayette County who is respected and paid well.
Respect is what I live and what I model. Respect got me to this chair. Show respect and the world opens up to you.”
The Hand of God
Andrea ends each day, much like she begins it, with prayer and reflection. But instead of Spotify, it’s the sound of running water that’s heard as she hand-washes dishes in a small kitchen. There’s not even a window to distract her. “This is my twenty minutes of devotional time and my time to talk to the Lord.”
Some nights, she also writes in a journal and recently penned, “Did I tell you things are getting busy at school? I don’t feel in over my head. I see the hand of God daily… Jamie is worth her weight in gold.”
It turns out, she’s not alone in her role as principal. Through those around her and by her faith, Mrs. Michaux is lifted by the hand of God to lead. Everyday.