When Joy Hudgens entered the education arena two decades ago, she had a simple intention.
“It was always my goal to make a difference in the lives of children,” said Hudgens. “At the end of the day, it's about making a positive impact and inspiring a lifelong love of learning.”
Hudgens was recently named principal of Bar W Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, after serving as assistant principal at Santa Rita Elementary for the past three years.
In fact, part of the reason Hudgens came to Liberty Hill in the first place was to gain valuable experience that would ultimately help her down the road, she said.
“I wanted the experience of opening a new school,” said Hudgens, who previously had been assistant principal at Laura W. Bush Elementary School in Leander ISD for two years after having taught fourth grade there for the previous three. “Laying a strong foundation for students for years to come. Also, I was very excited to come to Liberty Hill because the values and strong sense of community here.”
However, just because she's already had the experience of opening a brand-new school, it will be different this time around, she said.
“A principal sometimes has to make hard decisions,” said Hudgens. “But, honestly I just try to focus on doing what is best for kids every day and try to make a difference in their lives.”
Hudgens graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a bachelor's degree in science and elementary education with a specialization in reading, then earned a master's degree in educational administration at Concordia University.
According to Hudgens, opening a school in Bar W Ranch is an opportunity to introduce the school district's culture to an entirely different audience.
“We'll be welcoming a new community into Liberty Hill ISD and working on building our campus culture,” said Hudgens. “Our goal is to continue to build champions in academics, character and community.”
Before students can pour through the hallways and into the classrooms, though, there remains much work to be done, said Hudgens.
“Right now, my two biggest challenges are construction timelines and staffing,” she said. “But, I'm not anxious because I have incredible support from the district and so many mentors I can reach out to for help.”
Although construction may be out of her hands, Hudgens is actively recruiting teachers and other staff members in order to fill out her roster come August – a precise process in which she is seeking those she believes will fit with the district's overall philosophy.
“I'm looking for people who want to be a part of Liberty Hill,” said Hudgens. “Not just because of the location or convenience – people with high expectations who desire to be part of our community and positive culture. After all, learning should be joyful, challenging and engaging.”
As far as the actual building she and her staff will ply their trades in, Hudgens is pleased with the school's design.
“It's going to lend itself to collaboration,” she said. “For example, the school was designed with intentional collaborative spaces for each grade level, which will foster communication, as well as encourage creativity and critical thinking, which is very exciting.”
Hudgens found out she was getting her new job when she was summoned into the office of Superintendent Steve Snell, at which point she received the good news – a message that filled her with joy and anticipation, she said.
“For me, this is an incredible honor. I am very grateful to the district for their trust and support," she said. "I look forward to meeting our new students, partnering with our families and opening our doors in August.”