By the time June rolls around, there’s nothing most high school seniors would rather do than never set foot in their high school again. It’s time to be free! Go to college, work in a field you love, travel! But what if, after a few years of being a young adult, you were offered a job at the school you left behind less than a decade ago? Ask Sean Bixby, a member of Pentucket High School’s Class 2003, graduate of Hartford Art School, published illustrator, and now one of the visual arts teachers here at Pentucket.
Bixby grew up in Merrimac and went to both Sweetsir and Donaghue Schools. After graduating PRHS in 2003, he attended Hartford Art School, a division of the University of Hartford. Bixby has had considerable success in his young adult life. His sculptures have been featured in New York City exhibitions, and he has done illustrations for two children’s books (The Uncrossable Canyon and its sequel). Bixby’s first teaching experience was as a substitute teacher in various surrounding districts until he applied as a full-time art teacher to replace Mrs. Hart, the former head of the arts department who retired in 2011.
Since he started working at PRHS, Bixby has taught Fundamentals of Art, Drawing, and Video Production. Two new electives taught by Mr. Bixby were added into the mix this year: Graphic Design and Character Sculpture. Graphic Design is focused on creating art with digital mediums, and Character Sculpture deals with creating original characters and then building 3-D models of them.
Ms. Ducolon had Bixby in 12th grade English back in the day. She described Bixby as a quiet, well behaved student who performed well in her class. “He did really cool artwork and is a really great person.” When asked if it were strange to be working alongside a former student, Ducolon immediately said that it wasn’t strange at all. “I could see qualities of an art teacher [when he was my student].”
Throughout the interview, Ms. Ducolon struggled to dig up some dirt on her former student. She rummaged through old grade books in hopes of finding a bad grade but was mostly unsuccessful, as he
finished the class with a B+ average. “He got a 66% on his medieval essay!” she eventually declared with an air of victory.
Bixby was in Mr. Stevens’ Honors U.S. History class all those years ago, and Stevens had a lot of good things to say about his student-turned-coworker. “[He was an] excellent student!” When asked if Bixby was any different as a student than he is now, Mr. Stevens said “Yes, because he was a teenager!” The head of the history department described Bixby as being very personable, ready to take leadership roles, and being a solid citizen overall. Mr. Stevens recalled that the artwork in Bixby’s presentations was always memorable, but he wouldn’t limit himself to being just the artist of the group. “He was respected by everyone, and that carries over to now.”
Ms. Nadeau Tanner, the current Head of the was able to offer a lot of insight on Mr. Bixby’s experiences in high school, because he spent a lot of time in the art room and now works closely with the art teachers. “He was a great student, very talented and very serious about his work,” she fondly recalled. Ms. Nadeau-Tanner emphasized that he was still the quiet and polite teacher that we all know today, but “he was a comedian though, I got the sense that he was funny [around his friends].”
When asked if it’s strange to be working so closely with a former student, Ms. Nadeau-Tanner responded by saying “Maybe at first it was weird because I was so used to seeing him at the table.”
Nadeau-Tanner went on to suggest that because Mr. Bixby went through the art classes himself, “he knew the expectations for students . . . he was familiar with the culture.”
Along with being a talented artist, Mr. Bixby was a strong athlete in high school. “I had him in Wellness, coached him during Track season, and he was on the freshmen basketball team. Or was it JV?” Mr. Hayden recollected. However, the highlight of Mr. Bixby’s high school athletic career was as a football player. During senior year, Bixby was captain and excelled in his primary position of running back. Coach Hayden has always been awestruck by the talents Bixby has. “[I’m] still impressed by the cartoon in my office [Bixby drew] and by the likeness of the characters.”
Mr. Hayden is the oldest employee who is a Pentucket alumnus, so it’s no surprise he didn’t find it strange to be working alongside a former student, as it’s happened many times before. Like the other teachers, Coach Hayden had a lot of great things to say about Mr. Bixby. “He was a very good athlete, but it was always second to who he was as a person.”
Curious about work Mr. Bixby has done outside of Pentucket? Check out his website, http://seanbixby.com/ (There is some incredible artwork here!!!)