After 20 years in education, Timothy Flynn has developed a three-part system for developing middle-school students. In the sixth grade, he focuses on motivation and what it truly means to be motivated. In the seventh grade, the focus is dedication and not losing the drive to learn. By the eighth grade, Flynn looks at education and working with the "leaders of the school" in what it means to be an educated person.
"Our real job is something much bigger," Flynn said. "Every kid needs to be getting ready to attend a four-year college. I have a commitment to academic excellence, with a focus on learning that has a tremendous respect for the relationship we build between the parents, Belmont Ridge and their children."
FLYNN, WHO BEGAN as Belmont Ridge Middle School’s new principal July 2, said respect is at the basis of everything he does and he believes that a school cannot be truly exceptional without it.
"We’re going to have tremendous successes here, but there will also be challenges," he said. "We will be able to embrace all of them if we treat staff, each other, students and families is done with the highest level of respect."
In a two-decade career that is more varied than some people’s entire lives, Flynn said he has learned that the relationship between the school and its families must develop before they can focus on academic excellence.
"You can build the school community to come together and to focus on the most important thing, which is the kids," he said. "Everyone who has kids here has Belmont Ridge in common, so we can start there."
Edith Reed, Belmont Ridge’s PTO president, said she recognized Flynn’s "quality of spirit" during their first meeting.
"The kids work so hard, but they also need time to let loose and enjoy Belmont Ridge," Reed said. "He understands that balance."
MORE THAN 20 years ago, when Flynn started attending Stone Hill College, he had no idea that he would one day end up in education.
"Actually, I studied criminal justice," he said with a laugh.
After his time at Stone Hill, Flynn went to Assumption College to study rehabilitation counseling.
"I started an internship at juvenile correction facilities in the 1980s," Flynn said. "There I started working with special-education teachers in the program. I knew then that I wanted to work with children."
Flynn became a special-education teacher in his home state of Massachusetts before deciding he wanted to be a guidance counselor. After working at the Judge Baker Children’s Centre in Boston until 1990, Flynn made the biggest move of all. He moved around the world to work at Benavente Middle School on Guam.
For 11 years Flynn worked as a counselor before becoming an assistant principal and later a principal.
"I loved it," Flynn said of his decade on Guam. "There were a lot of similarities, but I had to learn a lot of things because it was clear that I was the different one. It was the most diverse place I’ve ever experienced."
FLYNN SAID his time on Guam required him to do a lot of self-reflection and that he changed as both a person and an educator while he was there. It was there that Flynn first understood the importance of forming relationships based on respect.
"If you can do that, you can deal with all of the other issues, even the difficult ones," he said. "If you skip that step, it can be difficult."
Flynn and his family decided to move back to the United States in 2002, when his son was entering elementary school and his stepson was entering high school.
"It was the right time to come back," he said. "We came to Virginia because we have family in the area."
Flynn began working at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, where he also attended the University of Virginia to earn his doctorate in administration and supervision.
Vickie Poole, who teaches algebra and geometry at Buford, worked under Flynn for four years and said the students always came first in Flynn’s mind.
"He was very supportive," Poole said. "If you had an idea that would benefit students, he would do everything in his power to get you what you needed. I would not hesitate to have my child in his school."
WHEN FLYNN DECIDED he was ready to move again, he knew he wanted to come to Loudoun.
"It was clear from living in Virginia and being at UVA that Loudoun County was setting some trends for excellence that were very attractive. As you grow professionally you want to work with the best. The reputation of Loudoun was clearly well known. This was the No. 1 place."
Poole, who used to teach at Park View High School, said Flynn should mesh well with the Loudoun school system.
"He is very innovative," she said. "He keeps up with what is going on in education."
Flynn said he excited to work at Belmont Ridge and to continue to push both students and staff to the next level.
"It is clear to me that the staff at Belmont Ridge has been working to build a sense of community and family here and I would like to continue that," he said.
For her part, Reed is impressed with how dedicated Flynn appears to be to the academic success of Belmont Ridge students.
"He saw their test scores and were impressed," Reed said. "But he thinks we need to raise the bar higher. Even if they score well, they need to be pushed."
FLYNN SAID HE believes public education is the "magic ticket to what we want to do" and he hopes to begin inspiring students to think about their future as early as possible.
For their first homework assignment, Flynn plans to ask the students to write a letter to the college that their parents went to and ask for a school flag.
"He’s going to have them bring them in and he’ll hang them around the school," Reed said. "It’s a visual goal that he is leading them towards. And it’s a fun way for the parents to connect with their children as well."
When he looks for teachers, Flynn said he looks for that same level of engagement in education.
"I want the focus to be on two main components, how they will effectively engage students in learning and how they plan on establishing a relationship with the student and the student’s family," he said.
For Flynn the success of education always comes back to the importance of creating strong personal relationships. And nowhere is that more apparent than in his former schools, Poole said.
"He would do whatever is necessary to make a student successful," she said. "He went out of his way to communicate with parents, even if it meant going to the home and sitting down with them. I’ve never seen a principal do that before."