This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2012 issue of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
By REBECCA EVERETT
SOUTHAMPTON - After 14 years teaching second-graders, an award-winning William E. Norris School teacher is taking on a new challenge: teaching teachers. Michael Flynn, a math and science teacher at the Southampton elementary school, will leave his job at the end of the month to become associate director of the SummerMath for Teachers program at Mount Holyoke College.
"It's a pretty powerful program," said Flynn, 37, of Northampton. "It's what's given me a lot of my training and helped me improve as a teacher."
Flynn's teaching during his years at the Norris School has been exceptional, according to national organizations that have named him among the best teachers in the country. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in 2010, the National Education Association Foundation's Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009, and was named the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 2008.
He has long advocated for high-quality professional development for teachers. The job at Mount Holyoke is a great opportunity to improve teacher training, he said.
In the post, Flynn will help develop and lead professional development seminars for current math teachers and will teach two undergraduate math instruction courses each semester.
"These days, districts are looking at test scores and trying to figure out how to improve math scores," he said. "The focus should be on teacher training. The deeper their knowledge of math and their understanding of how kids learn math, the better they'll be at teaching it."
Flynn said he first got a taste for instructing current and future teachers when he was a "teacher in residence" at Westfield State University in 2009. "I felt like if I could help some of them be stronger math teachers, hundreds more kids could benefit from it," he said.
He conceded that adults are "more reserved" students, and he will miss the unchecked enthusiasm of his second-graders. "When they get a new understanding, their faces just light up," he said. "And with second-graders, every day is an adventure. I'll miss that freshness."
Norris School Principal Bill Collins called Flynn's departure "bittersweet."
"He has so much to offer, and it's a great opportunity for him to be teaching teachers and sharing his wealth of knowledge," Collins said. "At the same time, not just his contributions but also his wonderful personality will be missed here at Norris."
Flynn said he plans to remain a member of the Northampton School Committee when he starts the new job in September.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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