Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I think about the concept of role models all the time and hope you do as well. I reflect often on how important it is that as teachers and educators, we continue to focus on that part of the “quiet curriculum” here at School. We need to be role models, we need to live our core values and we need to make certain that our students see us as lifelong learners. They are watching all the time!

The same holds true for our role as parents – we need to be role models.  Every day, our children are watching, absorbing our habits, our likes and dislikes and our work ethic. They see how we handle tasks at home, hear the language we use and see how we demonstrate our own values on a regular basis around our homes and in everyday life.

It is amazing to realize that my biggest role models are not always the people who have been my mentors or the people who taught me in school.  Occasionally, they are people who have impressed me with their passion, drive, commitment and determination. And sometimes, they are students. I have a vivid memory of a meeting I had eight years ago with a Ninth Grader and her mother.

They shared with me the story of the student’s early years, when she was a cancer patient. It was a life-threatening situation. They also shared that her family had benefited by attending a camp in Maine called, “Camp Sunshine.” It was a place where her entire family was able to connect with other families from around the country who were dealing with the same circumstances. They spent an entire week learning and playing alongside people who knew just what they felt. Thankfully, she is now cancer-free. From that point on, every summer, this family volunteers at Camp Sunshine.

The purpose of their meeting with me, however, was for this idealist student to promote her idea of hosting a “Polar Plunge” here locally, as a way of raising funds to allow children from Virginia to travel to Maine. They did the research and they found that they might be able to do it at Lake Anne at the old Reston Town Center. At that time, I remember being impressed by this enthusiastic, passionate Ninth Grader and her mother, who was going to support her in this effort. At that first event, there were 38 people who jumped into the lake that day. They raised $6,800 and we all felt it was a huge success. I’m sharing this story because these wonderful people were role models for me. They had passion in what they wanted to do. They had energy and drive. And their example has compelled me to participate in the Polar Plunge nearly every year since. I took part in the event once again this past Saturday, but I was there with more than 350 people. The unofficial tally right now is $114,000 raised! With that amount of money, nearly 56 Virginia families will be offered the opportunity to attend this amazing camp.  That relentless drive that captivated me years ago still exists and is even stronger today. It serves as a reminder of how our passion for Flint Hill and the educational experience we offer can continue to gain momentum.

And Saturday, even more role models surrounded me! The young lady who initiated this event was there with a huge group of her friends from college.  She is now a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, soon to become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner. Her younger sister, who is now in our Sixth Grade, also attended and is now a new role model for me. Her energy and enthusiasm are boundless. One of her classmates joined her this year.  The brave soul found out that she had a broken arm on Friday, but that wasn’t going to stop her. She showed up cast and all! Her parents joined her and while we all stood in line, I helped hold the kitchen trash bag as her dad taped the bag around her cast and arm so she could take part in the plunge as she had promised. From parents who were willing to support their daughter by jumping into this frozen lake, to two young students braving the cold and icy water for a terrific cause, all of them are role models.

I continue to see model behavior throughout our community. I’ve seen it in students who volunteer, the students who hosted the Shredding Day last weekend for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, students who brought a tremendous speaker to our campus once again for Black History Month, and in students who demonstrate empathy and leadership on a daily basis. I also see role models in our parents. Just today, parents volunteered to provide treats for faculty and staff appreciation. We also have parents who take the time to write their children’s teachers. They are role models. And a host of faculty serve as role models in their many acts of compassion and support. The list can be endless. Have you ever thought of who we are being role models for? What actions do we take to begin to serve as role models? Who are the role models that when we look around, we immediately recognize as having been a real influence in our lives? The people who have encouraged us to do better and kept us focused on what our path needs to be?

Please join me in taking time to reflect on that critically important part of our role as parents and educators. And who would our children label as role models? Ultimately, it always comes back to the people. I continue to be impressed by the people who make up our tremendous School family.

As a concluding thought, let’s not forget the many volunteers and our invaluable Development Office who have worked tirelessly for two years to bring us the upcoming Gala on March 7. Please join me in getting tickets before they run out so we can all attend to support the School, and serve as role models ourselves.

Best wishes to you!


John M. Thomas