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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Women’s History Month: Michelle Flynn

Centennial’s own Ms. Flynn talks women in STEM and motherhood in honor of Women’s History Month.
Womens History Month: Michelle Flynn
Yeseo Lim

Centennial math teacher Michelle Flynn is a firsthand witness to the progress made in women’s rights over the years. “[Growing up] I really saw particularly in history how much we didn’t hear about women, and I’ve seen that change and increase throughout my lifetime,” Flynn said.

“I think when I was young, I wanted to be a boy,” Flynn confessed. “I just looked at the boys and the things that they could do and I wasn’t allowed to.” As an athlete, Flynn often saw the lack of equal opportunities for women in sports, adding that as a young teen, she would play girls much older than her, simply because there was no other option. Even after the passing of Title IX — an amendment meant to “eradicate sex-based discrimination in education programs” (U.S. Department of Justice) — was enacted in 1971, the implementation process was slow. “The coach at my college was really hired to be an assistant men’s lacrosse coach, but because they were trying to follow the Title IX rules, they called him the women’s soccer coach,” Flynn recalled. “But he didn’t really know that much about soccer.”

While majoring in biology — a largely male-dominated field — at Princeton University, Flynn also experienced gender inequality in her studies. There were several classes where she was the only female student, but despite the challenges it presented, the situation only encouraged her to keep going. “You were definitely othered … [but] I think that just inspired me a little bit more.”

As an educator, Flynn has worked to promote this month’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion through her work. Before arriving at Centennial in 2015, she also taught at Marriotts Ridge and the HCPSS Homewood Center, where she helped girls who had difficult home lives and advocated for them to get services. Currently, Flynn sponsors the Girl STEMpowerment club and works to encourage females in the STEM community. “I [also] started the CHS Women in STEM alumni panel here,” she shared. One of her proudest actions toward improvement in the field, the event invites Centennial alumni students who are majoring in STEM at various universities to return and talk about their experiences.

Outside of her career, Flynn spoke about the significance of being a mom. “[It’s] really huge in terms of womanhood. It’s a different path for a woman to take — not everyone has to take that path — but being a mom, sister, daughter and niece … I think a lot of it has to do with balance.” She also mentioned her efforts to raise her daughter as a “strong, independent woman,” taking her to various women’s rights rallies and marches.

However, despite the many advancements toward gender equality, Flynn remains worried. “People of my age [are] a little more afraid … because we’ve seen it happen, and we’ve seen some of the same people that were oppressing us then coming into the forefront and being heard and seen.” With the rise of recent certain outspoken voices in the media, many have noticed the oppression of women’s rights across the world, prompting Flynn to add, “I’m glad that there’s a special month for it because … it means a lot in terms of those women who are still struggling for basic human rights.”

Looking toward the future, Flynn said, “I hope that we continue in the right direction and that women continue to fight together for our rights and not be divided.”


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About the Contributor
Yeseo Lim, Copy Editor