Teresa Flynn-Everett ’97, MA ’08, is principal at Perris Elementary School in Riverside county, a professional speaker and author, and CUI’s Alumna of the Year: Professional Development.
“I was emotional when I got the email [about winning],” says Flynn-Everett. “Concordia University Irvine has such a sweet spot in my heart. I was a young girl coming from Lowell High School in San Francisco, moving to Irvine—to this wonderfully Lutheran community, and I felt so at home and loved. So the nomination by Lanette Francovich and confirmation by the CUI Alumni Board is humbling and special. This award is for my loving family who always emphasized the power of education.”
Flynn-Everett studied liberal studies and child development, intending to go to law school, but took another path instead. After more than eight years working in information technology business development, she plunged into teaching grade-school children in the district where she presently works. She returned to CUI to earn her master’s degree and administrative credential, which helped when she was promoted to assistant principal, then principal in 2013 at a school that was in school improvement.
Under Flynn-Everett’s leadership, the schools she led received numerous recognitions, including: a Civic Learning Award of Merit; a Title I Academic Achievement; a Gold Ribbon for Best Practices in Teaching; and the Western Riverside County Association of School Managers Principal of the Year honor.
Her former boss, Vincent Ponce, superintendent emeritus in the Perris Elementary School District, calls Flynn-Everett “a high-energy, visionary leader who was integral to the leadership team we selected to move Perris Elementary School District from a traditional school district to a district of innovation with new opportunities for all students. Teresa’s strong interpersonal skills and natural sense of humor made her one of the most effective members of this team.”
Currently, Flynn-Everett is pursuing her doctoral degree in educational leadership at CUI, and she is thankful for her current boss, superintendent Jean Marie Fréy, for mentorship in her studies, leadership and beyond. Flynn-Everett works with “a wonderful team” at Perris Elementary.
“MLK has a great quote about education being about building character, not just learning,” Flynn-Everett says. “Our vision is to build scholars and build character in our students.”
One of the team’s significant efforts is to integrate visual and performing arts while promoting student leadership into every level of the school. Some of those roots go back to CUI, where she played Sojourner Truth in the play, “A Woman Called Truth.” She also played John the Baptist in “Cotton Patch Gospel.”
“Concordia has been very good to me,” she says. “What Sojourner Truth said in that play has stuck with me. Those theater experiences helped develop my voice.” Serving as a leader for CUI’s Black Student Union and as a Resident Assistant also broadened her early leadership experience.
A health challenge with one of her two sons led her to write a book of poetry, Speak Rivers and Move Mountains.
“It’s about the ability to overcome challenges,” she says. “One of my favorite books in the Bible is James, which talks about the inevitability of challenges in life—and about how faith without works is dead. The premise of this book is how you’ve got to speak and move. Faith is a two-part process, hearing and doing.”
Her deep Christian faith anchors her work as well.
“I couldn’t withstand all the things I have as a teacher and school leader without being a woman of faith,” Flynn-Everett says. “I thought maybe I would work in church ministry, but that was not the plan. So instead, I joyfully serve in public school systems and deeply believe the work is part of my life’s purpose. As a motivational speaker, she speaks and writes to audiences beyond her school, when she has the opportunity.
“My core message is about purpose, passion, and potential—the three P’s,” she says. “Living a life of purpose, being propelled by your passion, and realizing you can do what you put your mind to. … Having a purpose-driven life, something that is focused on character—this is what inspired me to become a principal.”
Ponce believes Flynn-Everett will rise to the level of superintendent due to her love of learning and natural leadership skills.
“I believe strongly that she has a bright future as an educational consultant in the area of leadership and team building,” he says. “I am very proud of Teresa’s accomplishments.”