Loudoun County, Va. (August 25, 2014) – There is no “I” in team, but there is one in Michelle.
New Loudoun County High School Principal Dr. Michelle Luttrell is all about building teams. Maybe that’s because she played on, and coached, so many of them.
Luttrell played basketball, volleyball and softball at James Wood High School in Frederick County. At Ferrum College and Shenandoah University, she played volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball and lacrosse. Later, Luttrell coached basketball, softball and lacrosse.
She said the playing field is a good training ground for the principal’s office.
“You have to have a game plan… You’ve got your game plan for a practice and you’ve got your game plan for the big events. It’s the same being a principal. You’ve got to have a game plan every day coming in. You have to have your day prioritized, organized. You need to communicate it well. My players are now my staff. The organization piece is a cross-over…
“Love sports, love everything about it. You’ve got to have that team mindset…It takes the complete team to have success. It takes the complete team here to experience success.”
At Loudoun County, Luttrell said she’ll stress to her staff that their responsibility is all-inclusive when it comes to students. “All fourteen-hundred kids that come on to this campus are your kids, they are my kids; they are our kids. Having that mentality of ‘I’m responsible for every single student who walks onto this campus, regardless if they’re in my class. I’m responsible for them.’
“That’s a tremendous responsibility to take on in this profession…
“It is my expectation that we give 100 percent every day, every block of the day to every single kid. That’s a challenge, but when you become a teacher you take that on. You have to own that passion. I go home every day and I’m tired, but it’s a positive tired.”
Choosing her profession was somewhat of a toss-up for Luttrell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at Shenandoah.
“When I was going into college, I knew I wanted to be in education in some capacity. I had really strong influences growing up – classroom teachers, coaches – so I knew I wanted to go into that discipline. I also was very involved with athletics; I had a passion for that. I got to college and the two worlds collided.”
Luttrell was faced with choosing to pursue a career in sports medicine, physical therapy or teaching. After student teaching, education became the clear choice. “Loved it; absolutely loved it.”
Since graduating from Shenandoah, she has worked as an elementary gym teacher in Rockbridge County; a dance and health teacher in Berkeley County, W.Va.; a physical education teacher at Stone Bridge High School; and the physical education chair and assistant principal at Freedom High School. (Along the way, Luttrell picked up a master’s degree in education administration and a doctorate in organizational leadership and K-12 administration, both from Shenandoah.)
Learning is at the top of her agenda every day.
“A goal I have for myself is to come to school and learn something new every day. That’s a challenge I have for myself; to get better at what I am doing. Maybe it’s the way I’m connecting with one person; trying a new approach if I’m not finding success with that person…
“It’s the challenge to get better every day.”
Luttrell wants her students to challenge themselves, but not in a generic sense.
“High expectations are good. I think they’re appropriate and I think they are needed. But we need to have high expectations for each student as an individual. They’re coming to us with a different skill set, different experiences at home. Some kids are coming to school hungry and they can’t think. They’re coming to us with so many different influences and factors.
“High expectations, yes, but where are they right now? Let’s make progress and that progress is going to look different for every kid…
“A lot of teenagers, they don’t know what their purpose is. We need to help them find their purpose…
“We’re preparing them for whatever they want to pursue after high school. It doesn’t have to be college. A lot of kids want to go into the military, some want to go to work, some kids want to volunteer overseas…I just want them to know that we are preparing them to do whatever it is they desire after high school and they are going to be successful.”
Preparing students means knowing them well.
“I want every kid to walk away knowing they’ve got a champion in this building. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be Debbie, our cafeteria manager; it can be Mary, our daytime custodian, it doesn’t matter who it is. But every single kid needs to feel that they are connected to this school.”
Luttrell said she wants her students and staff to feel free to approach her.
“I’m a people person, I love talking with people, meeting with people and just getting to know them.” (Potential conversation starters: Luttrell likes competitive ballroom dancing and Patricia Cornwell books.)
“I believe in being authentic and being real in every situation…being the same, being consistent; being reliable. People look for that.”
Luttrell also likes spending time with her family. Everyone associated with Loudoun County High School is now part of that family. “This is my home away from home. This is my family… I will spend more of my waking hours here than I will at home. So I need to do right by everybody in this building and treat these folks like they are my family and take care of this building as if it were my home.”
Luttrell is aware the school she’s leading has a rich history.
“This is THE Loudoun County High School. This is a school rich in history and tradition. People want to be here. Once they get here, they don’t want to leave. That says a great deal about the culture of this school.”