Pop quiz: What kind of educator blasts music, dances on chairs and encourages students to skip class?
Answer: Hamish Brewer, a.k.a. “The Relentless Principal”
“I’m about breaking rules in a good sense,” said Brewer, whose unorthodox leadership approach earned him the commanding title, along with national recognition as an “educational disruptor” who transforms struggling schools. Now principal of Northern Virginia’s Fred Lynn Middle School, he’s been named a Hometown Hero by Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., and featured on NBC Nightly News. And his video “The Relentless Principal” has generated more than 24 million views.
Brewer spewed enthusiasm last night to the teachers, school officials, community members and College of Education (COE) students who packed UMW’s Chandler Ballroom. His high-energy talk urged aspiring educators to value each child, never give up on anyone, and be open to bending the rules, but his main mission was to get them pumped up about their future jobs.
“We have the most amazing profession in the world,” he told the crowd. “The most amazing work gets done by us – nobody else.”
COE Dean Peter Kelly introduced Brewer as an educator with the ability to produce amazing results under difficult circumstances. “Public schools need to teach all children,” Kelly said. “Hamish knows something about that.”
Brewer, a former Fredericksburg resident, shared his struggles throughout school in his native New Zealand, starting in kindergarten, when his teacher said he was “dumb.” He told of his own – much different – start as a kindergarten teacher, encouraging students and finding ways to get through to them all, regardless of labels like special needs, ESL and underprivileged.
“Don’t ever tell me a child can’t learn,” Brewer said. “If you tell me a child can’t learn, I just saw a teacher who can’t teach.”
His energy and unabashed approach gave his career wings, and as a first-time principal, he championed innovative programs that got Prince William County’s Occoquan Elementary recognized as a National Title I Distinguished School. He’s been named in the top of his field by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, received the School Bell Award from the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals and earned the Virginia Impact Award from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Brewer had eyed Fred Lynn – an unaccredited school packed with English language learners and economically disadvantaged students – for years, he told last night’s crowd, and hopes to further his reputation as a change-maker there.
Daniel Webb, M.Ed. ’17, a first-year teacher at Stafford’s Brooke Point High School, said he was invigorated by Brewer’s talk, which received a standing ovation.
“He really inspired us to keep working hard and being passionate about the field,” said Emily Saia, a COE student on the special education track.
Brewer applauded UMW’s five-year master of education program and appealed to its students to stick to the core curriculum as teachers, maintain open communication with parents, engage the community and always give 100 percent.
“To be a great, amazing teacher is hard work,” he said. “You guys are the next wave of amazing teachers.”