The Milligan College and East Tennessee State University graduate was previously named a National Distinguished Principal for Tennessee in 2016 by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and has served as principal at John Sevier Middle School for the past five years.
Flora served as principal at Andrew Jackson Elementary School for more than three years and served for two years as a Kingsport district literacy coordinator. Flora worked as a teacher in the district for 15 years and previously served as president of the Tennessee Principal Association.
Flora worked closely with Indian Trail Intermediate School Principal James Jacobs when they were principals together in Kingsport. She said her experience working alongside educators and teachers will be valuable as the Johnson City district transitions Liberty Bell and Indian Trail into two middle schools for grades 5-8.
Flora spoke to the Press Thursday about herself and how she hopes to use her experience at Liberty Bell.
What was your reaction to getting the job?
“I was thrilled to get the phone call. I’ve worked closely with the teachers and principals in Johnson City for many years and just know their level of commitment to students, and I know their level of collaboration and commitment to the community. It was just an exciting opportunity for me to continue to learn and grow as a professional by coming to a neighboring district where I know that they’re excellent.”
What do you hope to bring to the table at Liberty Bell?
“I never thought I would leave the classroom because I was so passionate about instruction and supporting students. I spent a long time in the classroom because of that ... I think it’s important that teachers have a principal who is committed to supporting teachers so that students can be best served. With a pre-K through 8 experience, I feel like I can bring experience as a teacher and experience as a principal to be able to support a new school, especially as they transition as a middle school.”
What did you learn in your years as a teacher?
“I think most of all what’s helped me as an administrator having experience is knowing the growing expectations of teachers to meet the needs of all students. Teachers are the hardest working people in the district, and they need an advocate at the principal level who understands the work.”
What qualities do you think educators and principals should have?
“Especially when coming into a new school, it’s important to listen to the teachers, learn all that they can about the school, the students and the families and ask, ‘What are the things about the school you’re proud of? What are the next steps you see of where we can grow, and how can I help you get there?’”
What are the biggest challenges in public education?
“One of the biggest challenges is knowing that the pace of change in our world is progressing very rapidly and that we are tasked to prepare students to be both proficient and independent thinkers and problem-solvers for jobs and careers in a world that doesn’t exist yet. Our challenge is to help students know and be proficient with academic standards while at the same time being cognizant that we are really teaching children how to use those standards to be problem-solvers.”