Lifeguard to high school principal: Matt Hills


Mr. Hills poses in front of Mason’s logo. (Photo Credit: Fernanda Molina and Chiara Tartaglino).

Fernanda Molina, Editor-in-Chief

George Mason High School Principal Matt Hills has come a long way from his days of being a lifeguard in Freehold, New Jersey. After three years as assistant principal at Mason, he was promoted to principal in early July. Mr. Hills has held a variety of jobs throughout his life, both in and out of the field of education.  

image1When Mr. Hills was just 14 years old, he earned his first position as a lifeguard of the YMCA pool in his area.

As a child, Mr. Hills never saw himself as being a principal in the future. His dream job was entirely different to what he is now.

“I wanted to be a vet. I wanted to work with animals, but I struggled in science… so that kind of made me have to change my mind,” said Mr. Hills.

“I was a teacher, a waiter, [and] a bartender. I’ve coached football, soccer, tennis, golf. I was a paraprofessional or what they call in Fairfax, an instructional assistant, said Hills. “That’s how I actually got into education.”

Mr. Hills’ past experience in administration includes working as an assistant principal both at Charlottesville High School for three years and at Mason for three years.

“The transition from assistant principal to principal, I mean it’s a difficult one and I am recognizing that now. It’s like a moving escalator where it just doesn’t stop,” said Mr. Hills.

Mr. Hills’ experience working with students and staff members at Mason increased his qualifications to be principal. Additionally, he had already seen the whole spectrum of what to expect when he served as an assistant principal and administrator.

He enjoys being able to connect Mason students, teachers, and staff. In his opinion, the best part of being a principal is making decisions and choices that impact students and teachers in a positive manner.

Ms. Debbie Flanigan, secretary to Mr. Hills and three other Mason principals for 21 years, has faith that Hills will be able to exceed expectations as principal.

“He’s very much in-tune with the students and their concerns. He’s very much aware with all the students in the building and knows a lot of them. He reaches out to them just as they reach out to him,” said Flanigan.

This year, Mr. Hills plans to focus on the mind, body, and character mission statement of the school. In addition, he wants to help students de-stress from all the activities they balance in addition to school.  

“I see myself being here for hopefully a very long time and being able to grow a culture here where students feel as though they can pretty much do anything that they put their mind to,” said Hills. “I think my high school experience, looking back, is making me want to create more opportunities for all students.”

After diving into the field of education, Mr. Hills now sits in at the principal’s desk, which is definitely an upgrade from his lifeguard post.