SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Miriam Mickelson learned to speak English by watching American TV shows in her home country of the Philippines.

For Mickelson, who grew up in a rural village with only one English language TV show, that meant "MacGyver."

"I learned quite a bit of English from MacGyver," Mickelson said.

Growing up in a poor family in a poor neighborhood, Mickelson learned from an early age that education was going to be her ticket out of poverty.

"I knew education was my only saving grace," Mickelson said. "I am so passionate about education because of the abject poverty I grew up in."

It's that passion she said she hopes to bring to the Sedro-Woolley School District in her role as superintendent, which she started July 1.

"I want to help our young people see there are beautiful possibilities for them, regardless of the circumstances they're in now," Mickelson said.

She comes to the district after serving as executive director of teaching and learning services in the Snohomish School District.

After attending college in the Philippines and moving to the United States with her husband, Mickelson earned her paralegal certificate, but wasn't happy doing that, she said.

Instead, she began substitute teaching — which started her on a path into education as a career.

"I found my place in the world," Mickelson said.

Mickelson said she has spent much of her career as an educator in the teaching and learning side, helping teachers find ways to connect with kids in their classrooms.

She intends to spend much of her first year listening to school district stakeholders to learn how they can lead the district together.

"I believe in collective leadership," she said.

While many questions remain about what the next school year looks like, the district is as of now planning to return to full-time, in-person learning, Mickelson said.

While there are still logistics — depending on state and local public health guidance — that need to be worked out, Mickelson said she sees next school year as more than just a return to normal, but a cause for celebration.

"Just celebrate being together again and capture that effervescence and that joy of learning again," she said. "It's not just bringing students back to in-person, but how can we celebrate and rebuild on the resilience of our students and staff they demonstrated last year."

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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