Tim Flanagan, of Wiscasset, has retired after 46 years as a teacher and 40 years at Wiscasset High School, now Wiscasset Middle High School.
During a recent interview, Flanagan said teaching has been his life. He really loved the job, he said. He enjoyed the challenge of motivating students to learn and achieve their full potential in school and beyond.
There have been many changes in teaching methods since Flanagan became a teacher. “I have worked through 46 years of changes. Some of those changes have been good and others not so good,” he said.
Flanagan began his career as a math teacher at Westbrook High School in 1971. He started the job while pursuing his degree from Gorham State Teachers College, now the University of Southern Maine.
He heard Westbrook needed a math teacher and offered his services for free for a nine-month period. He told the school administration that if the school was satisfied with him after the nine months, they could hire him as a full-time teacher. If they were not satisfied, they would have a teacher for nine months at no cost.
“I must have done something right,” he said. “I was hired and taught there until 1977.”
Flanagan met his wife, Judy Shea, while attending Gorham State Teachers College. The couple married in 1969.
Flanagan graduated from Rockland High School in 1964. He was one of nine children. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965. While in the service, he was selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point.
“That was a great educational experience. We had 90-minute classes daily in math and English,” he said. West Point also provided instruction in student development and physical and military training. “That was where I got my real education,” he said.
The decision to retire was difficult for Flanagan because of his love for teaching and his dedication to students at Wiscasset Middle High. In many cases, he has taught children of former students. “I just love the school,” he said. “It is a wonderful school with great teachers.”
Flanagan expressed concern about the new Proficiency Based Learning Resources grading and reporting system, which the Maine Department of Education adopted in 2012. The new system mandated schools to award proficiency-based diplomas beginning in 2018.
The proficiency-based system requires students to master the knowledge and skills of a subject to a standard adopted by the state that is too high for all students to reach, according to Flanagan.
Flanagan said that in the proficiency-based system, some of the traditional grading systems, such as the student’s work habits, completing assignments on time, class participation, and attendance are no longer included in the student’s grade.
Flanagan believes students’ behavior is an important aspect of their education and should be included in their grades. “Our work habits follow us all through life,” he said.
The proficiency-based system grades the students strictly on academic achievements, and does not average behaviors and academic learning together.
Flanagan said he believes proficiency-based education would work well for kindergarten through sixth grade, but not for high school.
Flanagan believes a key element to being an effective teacher is providing structure in the classroom. Most students learn more in a structured environment, he said. The structure has many advantages both for teachers and students, he said.
A lack of structure can create chaos and be counter-productive, he said.
“First of all, we have to create an environment that encourages learning,” he said. The key to developing good learning habits are students’ focus, desire to learn, and discipline, he said.
Students often call Flanagan coach, because over the past 40 years, he has coached most sports at the school, including basketball, cross-country, golf, and tennis, as well as the math team.
Flanagan is an avid golfer. At one time, he thought that after he retired he would become a golf pro like his father. Now, at the age of 71, he has changed his mind, he said with a chuckle.
Flanagan said he is not sure what he will do in the future. This summer he has been cleaning out 46 years of teaching material, which date back to his first year of teaching.
While he is unsure what retirement will bring, Flanagan does know one thing for sure – Wiscasset will remain his home.
“I have enjoyed teaching and I have learned a lot from the students I taught,” he said.
When Wiscasset Middle High School opens for the 2017-2018 school year, the absence of Tim “Coach” Flanagan will be noticed by many.