Tuck’s Heart is in the Park


“I’m about the Sterling Park community and I’m about kids. The opportunity to stay in the Park was something I didn’t think was going to happen. It allowed me to be where I really wanted to be.”


Tuck served as the assistant principal at nearby Rolling Ridge Elementary for five years. Prior to that, he taught at Rolling Ridge for five years. Tuck succeeds Colleen O’Neill, who is now the principal at Sterling Middle School, as Sully’s principal.


Former Rolling Ridge Principal Lottie Spurlock gave Tuck a philosophy for working with Sterling Park’s challenging demographics: “The work is real and it’s hard, but it’s the right work.”


“It’s meaningful work,” added Tuck. “If you approach it that way, you can get through hard days.”


“The Park is great. The other principals have already reached out to me for anything that I need. They can serve as a sounding board.”


Getting to know his new school community is Tuck’s top priority. “In this first year, it’s finding a way to connect with families to make sure they have what they need.”


One way that Tuck will connect is through virtual home visits, a communications tool he used during the pandemic.


“At a time families really needed a lot, whether it was food, whether it was clothing, whether it was a problem with Wi-Fi, whether it was help with academics, whether it was social-emotional support, it was an avenue for parents to let us know that was what they needed. As a school system we have so many supports that parents don’t even know are options. Until we know it’s a need, we can’t help with some of those things. Breaking down barriers so they get to a comfortable place where they share what they need with us so we can support them as best we can - that’s my goal this year.  I want parents to be comfortable with me, comfortable with the staff and just comfortable with being back in the building. For me it’s about involvement and engagement. It’s not just about how many people show up at spaghetti night. It’s about how many parents show up when you have a coffee about reading strategies and can they take what they heard back to their kids and help them at home.”


“You create as welcoming an environment as possible. Everything you do has to exude welcome to them. They have to be in the process to have real family engagement.”


Tuck has been meeting with teachers in his temporary office in the library while Sully’s main entrance and office are renovated. “Getting to know a staff from scratch. When you look at the staff here, they are extremely committed to getting students what they need. It’s hard work. It also means knowing the families and trying to find ways to connect with them and to have them be as involved as possible with what is going on in the school.”


Tuck knows more than a little about effective teaching, having been honored as Loudoun County’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. There’s no evidence of that award in his office and it’s not something that he references with staff. Tuck said he’s never tried to approach teaching as if he knows everything. “As teacher of the year I taught fifth grade. That’s very different from kindergarten. What I try to do is build off my teaching experiences in a way that teachers know that I am about instruction.”


“Relationship building is one of the things that got me that award. You don’t get that award because your scores are good. You get that award because you make an impact on staff, you make an impact on families, you make an impact on kids and you don’t do that without relationships.”


Feedback is the key to effective teaching, Tuck added.


“As somebody who was high-performing, I realize that feedback is so important. I wanted feedback, even as successful as I was in the classroom. I want to provide feedback to you, don’t take it in a negative way. We’re just here to make sure the teaching is the best it can be, because that’s what kids deserve, the best instruction they can have.”


Tuck said personalized learning will be easier this year because students won’t have to be socially distanced. He also wants to set expectations for students based on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). “Getting back to those practices of the past that we know are best for kids.”


Tuck’s family includes a wife, who teaches at Ashburn Elementary, and three daughters. “They keep me as busy at home as the kids keep me here.”


Published 8/9/21