Questions, always questions.
The hallways at Woodward Middle School erupt in the few minutes between the last classes of the day, with students streaming every which way, breaking off in bits then joining together to flow in another direction, like slow-moving molten lava.
Woodward Middle School Principal Mike Florian stands off to one side as they pour past.
“How’d you do on that math test?” he calls out to one.
“Why are you wearing your backpack?” he says to another.
Each answer prompts another question, but in a few moments, the hallways are empty.
And in a few months, Florian will disappear, as well.
But what will he do over the summer? Well, Florian has an answer for that, as well.
Florian is stepping down as principal of WMS at the end of the school year; the Bainbridge Island School Board approved his retirement at the board meeting last week.
“I’ve got seven grandkids that need more attention,” Florian said.
They’re 2 to 10 years old, so it’s an important time.
Still, it’s a bittersweet farewell. He’s been principal at WMS since 2009, when he was picked to replace retiring Woodward principal Mary Alice O’Neill.
“There’s so much excitement every day at lunch, even in the hallways.
“There’s a lot of energy with kids at this age; I really enjoy that and thrive on that,” he said.
One of the things he’ll miss most are the connections he’s developed with students over the years. That’s changed a bit since he stepped out of the classroom years ago and became an administrator.
“I don’t get as much individual time with students these days. But I’ve also found it very rewarding to work with the staff here,” he said. “They are super dedicated to middle school students.”
Florian started his career in education in 1978, as a 22-year-old math teacher at Commodore Middle School.
Including one year off to get a master’s degree, he’s spent the last 40 years as a teacher or school administrator.
He still sees some of his former students from his early years — but now they are parents.
“Their kids are here at Woodward now,” Florian said with a laugh.
Florian, who turns 62 in February, has spent 26 years as a teacher, and 13 years as an administrator.
“It’s been an incredible experience. I can’t think of any better place to spend a career, or a better job to do than being a teacher and being a principal of a school. It was pretty rewarding.”
Florian tendered his resignation letter to the school board on Halloween, and recalled his time as a teacher and administrator.
“Over the years, I have taught nearly every math course or computer course from sixth grade math through AP Calculus and AP Computer Science. I spent 26 years as a classroom teacher and 13 years as a school administrator,” he wrote. “I also coached volleyball and basketball for a combined 25 seasons. I have enjoyed each and every opportunity that has come my way.”
And when he was welcomed back to the middle school level, as an administrator, he recalled, “I am proud of our achievements and the difference we make in the lives of our students every day. I couldn’t have done it without some of the most amazing staff members to be found anywhere. I will miss them dearly.”
Florian grew up in Poulsbo, but moved with his family to Ketchikan, Alaska, as a young boy and stay there through his high school years.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Pacific Lutheran University.
Beyond a history as a math teacher, Florian has also worked as a carpenter, landscaper, TV station manager, air freight deliveryman and millwright helper, according to his biography on WMS’ website.
His retirement starts June 30, 2018.
With some new time on his hands, Florian said he’s looking forward to getting some repairs done at the family’s Arizona home.
“I’ve kind of got the reputation after building my own house as the fix-up guy in the family.”