Di Nicola Is an Inspired Lifelong Learner

Dr. Tripp Di Nicola, the new principal of J. Lupton Simpson Middle School, knows exactly where he got his inspiration to become an educator and lifelong learner. 

Joann Radosh was Di Nicola’s French and Japanese teacher at Hedgesville High School in Berkeley County, West Virginia. Radosh brought incredible energy to her classroom and had the mindset that all the students in her class would succeed. “She would not let you walk out of her classroom without feeling you’d accomplished something.“

Radosh was always present and visible at school events not related to her class. “She would just show up at concerts. She would be present if you had games. She was just that dedicated to us.”

Di Nicola became Radosh’s colleague after graduating college and still keeps in touch with his former teacher, who is 83.

Other educational inspirations could be found closer to home (in fact in Di Nicola’s home.) His grandmother taught school in New Jersey from 1937 to 1987. Di Nicola’s dad taught for 40 years in Berkeley County. His mom taught for 20 years after raising Di Nicola and his brother, then going back to school to get her degree so she could teach elementary school special education.

Di Nicola’s own educational career has been an odyssey. He began as a French, Japanese and Spanish teacher at Musselman and Martinsburg high schools in Berkeley County, before becoming that school’s assistant principal. He came to Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) in 2002 as a dean and foreign languages teacher at River Bend Middle School. Since then, Di Nicola has served as an assistant principal at Smart’s Mill Middle School; as a foreign language specialist with the LCPS central administration; as a world languages and cultures teacher at Broad Run High School; and as an assistant principal and activities director at Riverside High School. He most recently served as the supervisor of school administration in the central office.    

“I am the definition of a lifelong learner. I always like to be challenged and try something new. I always want something different for me to feel like I’m learning.”

All of his posts pointed him toward becoming a principal. “The principal role has been the one that is the ultimate for me. That’s where I think I can work with others to have the best possible impact. It’s been a dream of mine. I like the aspect of collaboration and hearing the voices of students, teachers, parents and families in making decisions.” He said his personality is that of an organizer. “I love empowering others around me to be a part of that.”

Di Nicola’s primary goal for students is crystal clear. “The most important thing for them is to ensure that they feel like they have a place here. That they’re seen and they’re engaged with us as staff.” Each student should be known – and known well – by at least five to 10 staff members, he added. “When we have conversations with kids in the hallway – getting to know them before they ever go into a classroom – it allows us to pique their interest and find pockets where we can get them involved in some way.”

Above all else, Di Nicola wants students to feel joy in their education.  

“I like education to be fun. I like to come into classrooms and participate in the activities they’re doing. I like being a student again as much as they do. Don’t be surprised if you see me dressing up on days they’re dressing up. I like being as spirited as they are.”

Having been an administrator in both middle and high school, Di Nicola knows the unique role middle schools play. “I believe it is the most impactful time of their life, in terms of helping them find interests and discover. That’s the exploratory nature of middle school in general - helping them get routines about effective learning practices and trying to find ways to get them involved outside the classroom.”

Accessibility is the focus of Di Nicola’s relationships with parents. “It’s important for families to feel we are reaching out to them regularly to let them know how their children are doing. To try to get input from them in ways we can support them in their role as parents at home. It’s a partnership.”

In addition to his duties at Simpson, Di Nicola teaches career-switchers at Shenandoah University and educational leadership at George Mason University. “I still teach at the university level, just to keep myself grounded with what’s happening in classrooms every day.”

Di Nicola holds a bachelor’s degree in French and secondary education from Shippensburg University; a master’s degree in education leadership and supervision from West Virginia University; and a doctorate in organizational leadership studies from Shenandoah University.

Published August 23, 2023