Bon voyage

Principal Tim Thomas and key staff retire, leave AHS

Suad Mohamed, Co-Editor in Chief

As the school year wraps up, students and teachers prepare to say good-bye and leave for the summer.

However, with every last day of school comes a few teachers and faculty who are saying their final good-byes.

Featured are five staff members who will be leaving AHS once this school year ends. They shared their memories and a few parting words as they finalize their adventure as an Atom.


Behind the scenes, Principal Timothy Thomas works to make sure everything at AHS runs smoothly.

However, most see him as the guy who spends the school day walking the halls to talk to and greet as many students and staff members as possible.

Well known for giving announcements on the loudspeaker in both English and Spanish, Thomas announced his retirement in late April after four years of being principal at AHS.

Born and raised in the Northern Virginia area, Thomas worked in landscaping before he studied Spanish at George Mason University.

“I worked in landscaping for a number of years, working daily with Spanish speaking co-workers,” Thomas said. “I took advantage of that opportunity to practice the language.”

Prior to his tenure here, Thomas was a Spanish and Peer Mediation teacher for eight years at Westfield HS in Chantilly.

After that, he was an assistant principal at Centreville HS for two years before he returned to Westfield to serve as the principal for an additional four years.

After bouncing around a bit, it looks like Thomas found a home here at AHS.

“Mostly I am going to miss the people. The students, the faculty, and staff, and all the families and their support,” Thomas said.

Thomas cares deeply about the connections he has built up during his time here.

“I feel like I created a lot of meaningful relationships and it’s always hard when you have met so many people that you care about, and that’s the case here,” Thomas said.

When speaking of the impact that he made here, Thomas remains humble and proud.

“I think my greatest impact was that I was able to develop and maintain positive relationships with all types of people in the community,” Thomas said. “At the same time, I was a problem solver.”

While he gave to the community, Thomas recognizes that the community gave back to him in a reciprocal manner.

“I look at what I have done here as an opportunity. I have been given the opportunity to work with students from all around the world who speak many different languages and come from even more different kinds of culture,” Thomas said. “I think that the greatest opportunity and best part of the job has been getting to know a whole new school and community.”

After his time here, Thomas plans to downshift while still working in education.

“I am looking to maybe get an assistant principal job in Prince William County, since that is where I live and I want to be closer to home,” Thomas said. “I am looking forward to being able to support a school and a community in a different way and capacity.”


After 21 years at AHS, Instructional Coach Niki Holmes is prepared to switch in her red and white for the purple and gold of Lake Braddock SS, where she will also work as an Instructional Coach.

Before her current role, Holmes worked as an IB Literature and Literacy Lab teacher. Along with current teacher Leslie Chekin, Holmes worked to create the IB Language and Literature course.

In addition, Holmes formerly served as the adviser for the Antenna Yearbook and was a coach for the Girls Volleyball team.

She was also the coordinator for the IB Diploma Program’s Extended Essay.

Holmes is originally from Pennsylvania and did not always want to be an educator.

“Originally, I enrolled in the University of Pittsburg with the intention to study dentistry. Then, I changed my mind, and I am really glad that I did,” Holmes said. “I transferred to Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and education.”

Afterwards, she obtained a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction for multi-language students.

“Education has been a really important part of my life. It is full of wonderful challenges. If you are not struggling, you are not learning,” Holmes said.

When she thinks of her time here, Holmes will miss the relationship that she built with members of the community.

“After 21 years, it has been a little less than half of a lifetime for me,” Holmes said. “I am going to miss the students. I am going to miss lots of colleagues, who are now friends. Annandale was really fun, and shows a snapshot of the world. I will miss learning about different cultures.”


Also among those leaving is Resource teacher and Girls Tennis coach Hassan Mims. Before his current role, Mims began working as the AHS Dean of Students in 2009.

Mims previously taught Social Studies and History for nine years, as well as serving as the Students Achieving More Program (SAM) coordinator & teacher, PTSA-to-AHS liaison, On-Time Graduation Coordinator, and Apex Credit Recovery Program coordinator.

“This is the third school I’ve worked in. Annandale High School has the best school community I have worked in,” Mims said. “This is the best school community that I will always miss.”

When reflecting on his time here, Mims remains positive, even about the rough times.

“About 6 years ago we were about 500 students over capacity, so that was tough. Also families in this community have more needs than they used to. Some of those needs are basic needs aren’t being provided,” Mims said. “However, we got through it.”

Along with the tennis team and interacting with students daily, one of Mims’ favorite things about AHS was the togetherness of the community.

“Throughout the years I have noticed tat we are very passionate about students learning, and everyone chips in to help.”

However, Mims also realizes that this school has changed him for the better.

“At the same time, there are students in the community that have also impacted me to make me a better person, that there is more to life than it seems.”

Next school year,, Mims will be part of the administration team at South County HS as a Systems of Support Adviser.


After working in the clinic for several years, school nurse Tracy Shakespeare is saying good-bye.

Shakespeare will miss the students the most as she flips the page on this chapter of her career.

“AHS has a wonderful group of students. I will also miss many of the staff,” Shakespeare said. “This school is a hidden gem of talent – both with the students and the staff.”

When asked of her impact during her time here, Shakespeare cites how far she has gotten in making medical help more accessible to less fortunate students.

“It has been great to be able to help students with medical needs, some more than others and some with little to no support network at home,” Shakespeare said. “Being able to provide care or help locate care for students, with the team at AHS, has been very rewarding.”

The biggest challenge for Shakespeare was to find specialty care, such as eye appointments or glasses, dentistry, or medical for uninsured students.

“AHS is lucky to have the support system of the health department, school social worker, clinicians, counselors, and parents liaisons who care,” Shakespeare said.

Shakespeare and her husband plan to move to Hampstead, North Carolina just north of Wilmington, North Carolina.

“We will have a view of the Intracoastal Waterway everyday,” Shakespeare said.


ESOL teacher Kimi Sisskind grew up in New York and has been a devoted teacher for 10 years at AHS.

Sisskind began working at AHS in August 2009.

Besides being an ESOL teachers, she has also been the ESOL coordinator for incoming students, along with serving as the CAS coordinator for the IB program. When reflecting on her time here,
Sisskind marks her relationships as being what she will miss the most.

“I am going to miss my colleagues the most and the students,” Sisskind said. As she thought about her impact, Sisskind hopes that her work will the ESOL department will help a lot in the future.

“I hope that creating the newcomers program will give future students the additional support that they need for learning English.”Sisskind has devoted her time to inform students about the resources available for assistance inside and outside of school.

After she wraps up her time here, Sisskind will serve as the ESOL department chair at Stone Middle School in Centreville.