When he began his career in education, Bryan Rickert never considered even becoming an administrator, much less a principal. Now the Danbury native has been elevated to lead Hillcrest Middle School, the 2018-19 Connecticut Middle School of the Year.

Being a principal of any school would be an honor,” Rickert said. “But Hillcrest, I really feel, has the best faculty and staff I have ever worked with, and students that are open-minded and come to school with a positive attitude every day.”

Rickert is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, and holds master’s degrees from the University of Scranton and Purdue. He began his career in Darien, where he taught social studies since 2006 and been head of the Social Studies Department at Middlesex Middle School since 2009.

He was named assistant principal of Hillcrest in 2013. Now he has been elevated to the top spot, replacing Stafford Thomas, who resigned in June to become principal of Staples High School in Westport.

“I could never fill Stafford’s shoes, but hopefully I can blaze my own trail after working with him side by side every day,” Rickert said.

Rickert said he planned to be “hands-on” when it comes to the daily functioning of the school.

“I had a boss once that said you never tell someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself,” he said. “In education, you’re in the people business and everyone has to be a Swiss Army Knife. A teacher may also be someone a student turns to for counsel, a student learns from their counselor. The bottom line is that every decision any of us make has to be in the best interest of the kids.”

School Superintendent Gary Cialfi said Rickert was a natural choice, saying Rickert had “demonstrated exemplary leadership as Hillcrest assistant principal.”

Many members of the school community also backed Rickert for principal, and news of his hiring generated dozens of comments and congratulations on social media.

“We are one lucky school!” Lori Chuhta O’Brien exulted on Facebook.

Kelly Csizmadia expressed similar sentiments, posting “We are so fortunate to have you leading our school.”

Rickert said the response had been overwhelming.

“Hopefully, I will earn all the support that I received,” he said. He added that the school’s staff would be key in Hillcrest’s continued success.

“When the school succeeds, is because we all succeeded,” he said. “And if not, it starts with me.”