Timothy Patrick O'Flaherty
National Trainer, Educator and Instructor of Classical Latin and Greek
An optimist by nature, Tim O’Flaherty’s motto is “Every day is a sunny day.” He would be the first to tell you that his life has been charmed, almost a fluke, living as he does “The Renaissance Ideal: Soldier, Scholar Artist,” which he assures anyone who asks was completely unplanned.
Tim came to education almost by accident. A lover of antiquity, he first got “bitten” by his passion for the past while stationed at Friedberg, Germany with the United States Army as a Tank Crewman on Active Duty with the 3rd Armored Division, Still, he clung to his original creative goals that he had had set for himself before his enlistment. With his Honorable Discharge in his back pocket, Tim went to art school in 1987 pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts undergraduate degree in Illustration, Art History and Film Production at Massachusetts College of Art. Nevertheless, he turned his attentions back to ancient history through his studies abroad in Crete, Florence and Athens.
Unable to shake this ancient history bug, a major life-changing event now occurred. Tim realized that he needed a strong background in Latin and Ancient Greek if he was to pursue an academic career as a Roman historian. His mind made up, Tim knew that this would pose a huge, but not insurmountable problem for him since foreign language study was always a challenge (the first time he took Italian, for example, he got a C-). He persevered, however, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Massachusetts (1994). He followed that by matriculating into Indiana University, Bloomington where he earned a Master’s Degree in both Classical Studies (August 1998) and Ancient History (1999), with a minor in Renaissance Studies. In the summers (1995-1999), Tim also worked as an educational guide in both Greece and Italy, assisting on several tours. These trips would serve him well in the future when he led his own educational trips abroad (Seven so far!).
As his dissertation committee started to come together, however, Tim faced another more serious dilemma. In the late 1990s, higher education was cutting back on tenure track faculty positions, and delegating more and more of their teaching loads onto the backs of graduate students or adjunct instructors. In short, there were simply not as many faculty positions available for all the newly trained ancient historians who wanted them. As if this were not enough, in the previous decade while unmarried Tim could make an educational decision about studying Classics without worrying about a family to support. Now Tim was not only married and had a two-year old daughter (1997), but he also a newly born son (1998). Moving back to Massachusetts in the summer of 1999, Tim and his spouse decided that he would forgo his Ph.D. and pivot towards a career in secondary school as an educator, using his Master’s Degree in Classical Studies to teach Latin to high school students. It was a decision that would dramatically change his life.
Tim discovered that he absolutely loved being an educator! Nevertheless, since he was a novice, and did not train traditionally through an educational school certification program (the normal route to teacher certification), he realized that the best way to reach his students was to treat them with a great deal of respect. Moreover, since he had struggled so mightily to learn his own Latin and Ancient Greek, he deeply sympathized and cared about his own students’ difficulties with these “dead” languages. As a result, Tim developed shorthand mnemonic techniques that greatly enhanced his students’ abilities to learn. Because of this constant, doting attention to his students’ welfare, more and more students were soon flocking to his classes. Engaged in the day-to-day challenges of students mastering the syntax and morphology of Latin, Tim O’Flaherty, or “Mr. O,” as his prodigies soon affectionately started to call him, immersed himself fully in their learning, never once letting them quit. He brought his zeal for the subject to such life that it was contagious. Everywhere he taught, he grew his program, forcing administrators to add new Latin sections just to keep up with the demand! Many of Mr. O’s colleagues wondered how he could make such a seemingly unpopular subject so, well, popular. Mr. O’s answer is straightforward, “I treat my students like they’re the most important people in the world to me. I get to know them. Learn what’s in their hearts, and mentor them through thick and thin.”
“A key part of successful teaching,” he adds, “is recognizing that it’s not a power relation-ship! Rather, it’s a symbiotic, mentoring relationship. I know I know my Latin. As I tell my students, it’s not that I’m smarter than they are, which is unlikely; it’s that I know different things. My job is to teach them what I know; they’re job is to learn it. I think that I’ve gotten as much out of my students as they’ve gotten out of me, frankly. In fact, I think I coach more than I teach, if that makes any sense. At the end of the day, however, it’s my classroom management techniques that I’ve developed over these past fifteen years or so that’s led to my students’ own successes, both in high school and later in college.”
Mr. O maintains that his classroom management and teaching methodology are universal – any teacher could use his classroom discipline and management techniques with any age group, in any subject, in any school district. Moreover, these classroom management techniques can be taught to any teacher who is willing to learn them. They will work in rich schools, or poor ones. They will work for any age group, from elementary schools, to middle schools, to secondary schools, and even in college. The will work in any discipline, too, from the ELA curriculum, to math, science, social science, art, history and humanities. Mr. O even believes that bus drivers and school custodians can use his classroom management techniques to improve the lives of their students (not to mention mitigate discipline referrals). Sound classroom management fundamentals are the very things that undergird solid pedagogy, no matter the subject, providing teachers and educators that one thing that they never have enough of: the ability to spend more time educating students as opposed to disciplining them.
Currently, Tim O’Flaherty is the new Latin teacher at West Coast Junior Senior High School in Melbourne, Florida (the famous Space Coast). When offered the position, the Principal was blunt: “Tim,” he said, “what we need is for someone to come in here and grow this Latin program” Tim gladly accepted the challenge. Whereas this year he has two sections of Latin 1, one section of Latin 2 and a Latin 3 Honors, next year he anticipates that he’ll have two sections of Latin 1, two sections of Latin 2, a Latin 3 Honors as well as an Advanced Placement Latin. And if those things don’t keep him busy enough, he is currently pursuing his Professional Level 2 Teacher Certification with the State of Florida, which he will complete this upcoming January 2016.
- Trainer in Classroom Management
- Instructor of Latin and Ancient Greek 2002-Current
- United States Army 1983-Current, Current Rank Lieutenant Colonel
- Graduate of University of Massachusetts 1994, BA Classical Studies
- Graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington 1998, MA Classical Studies
- Graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington 1999, MA Ancient History