Looking Past the Lens: a Q&A with Paly Photo Teacher Margo Wixsom

This is the second in a series of profiles on Paly teachers. Photo teacher Margo Wixsom attended Bishop Kearney High School in New York and participated in several of the school activities available, such as color guard, stage tech and the art programs. We asked her to discuss how life is different at Paly, give advice to students and reminisce about her time as a teenager.

Margo Wixsom's high school yearbook picture from 1973. She took some of the yearbook portraits for her high school. Photo courtesy of Margo Wixsom
Margo Wixsom’s high school yearbook picture from 1973. She took some of the yearbook portraits for her high school. Photo courtesy of Margo Wixsom

Verde Magazine: What was your best moment in high school?

Margo Wixsom: “My best moment in high school was in our senior year. They took four seniors away who they thought were the biggest leaders in the school and I was picked. They put the four of us in charge of a program called Senior Volunteers [which dealt with community service], and they gave us a closet and that was our office. We had 480 seniors in our class, and we got about 400 of them matched up with different community service activities you had to do to graduate. I was one of the founding members of that program.”

VM: How is Paly different from your high school?

MW: “I love public school, I went to private school and there are so many flippin’ rules that really wear you down. And I think the biggest change is we’ve become a culture where we learn to trust our young people and we encourage them to be trustworthy. Teens have a much more confident, worthy place in the world today. Before it was more like, ‘Wait until you’re 18. Wait for your turn. Just sit down and shut up and, you know, behave yourself.'”

VM: What was your high school experience like?

MW: “I loved high school. I had really, very good friends. My friends made things so much fun and introduced me to new things.”

The cover art of Bishop Kearney High School's 1973 yearbook, which Wixsom designed and drew herself. Photo courtesy of Margo Wixsom
The cover art of Bishop Kearney High School’s 1973 yearbook, which Wixsom designed and drew herself. Photo courtesy of Margo Wixsom

VM: Any words of wisdom for students?

MW: “Have good friends. Talk to people when you’re down and bad things are going on. Have someone who you can talk to, don’t keep it inside, have a good cry. Make sure you have a lot of joy and laughter in your life. My friends were just really great. They gave me a really happy place to come to and they gave me a lot of positive experiences. And I can’t tell you it was anything really awesome, just lots of hanging out. Hanging out time is really important.”

VM: How have your values changed?

MW: “I don’t think they really have. I got really good values in high school, mostly just watching people that [I knew]. You have good things happen to you, and you just say, ‘That’s how I want to be, and that’s how I want to treat people.’ They’re just kind of really simple, like treat people the way you want to be treated. [Also,] I don’t have to iron my hair every day and I don’t have to spend an hour putting on makeup because I think I don’t look pretty. I think if you let go a little bit more of that and just really focus on what you’re doing and who you’re with, life is really great. That would be my advice: learn to like yourself early.”

VM: Do you have any advice for your teen self?

MW: “You are just fabulous the way you are. Relax. Have fun. Don’t worry as much.”

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