MILTON — When you have a school that takes pride in what they do end enjoys working together each day, the years can fly by. At least that is the case for Avalon Middle School, which celebrates their 20 year anniversary this year.

Tonya Shepherd, principal of AMS, said this year is a special year not only because of the anniversary, but also because it marks the school's success in scoring an "A" ranking for their school grade and maxing their number of students in the history of the school with a current enrollment of 861.

Shepherd said since the inception of school grades, Avalon had always maintained an "A" rating until 2013 when they dropped slightly to a "B." She said after that year, the school went into high gear to make their academics better to improve their grade. 

"We were proud of our 'B,' but not content," she said. "So when we say level up, we mean level up in our mindset, the rigor of the instruction we give. We are prepping our students for college and career."

Since the school opened, Shepherd said they have added on a new wing to the school and this year they have introduced new programs including jazz ensemble, theater, digital information technology, and pre-engineering

Shepherd is the fourth principal to lead Avalon. She came to Avalon in the mid 2010s, previously serving the school as their dean and assistant principal before assuming the role two and half years ago.

According to Linda Bailey, a math teacher at Avalon who has been with the school since it first opened, said the school has the best administration in her eyes and believes Shepherd is the heart of Avalon.

"She is Avalon," Bailey said.

Bailey first taught at Pace Middle School, which opened in the 1960s. Because of the growth of Pace, by the late 1990s it was determined that Pace needed two middle schools, which prompted the opening of Sims Middle School in 1998 and Avalon in 1999.

Bailey said she loved Pace Middle but found the building old and her classroom small. When she moved to Avalon and saw how big her classroom was, she said she felt like she had "died and gone to heaven."

But the biggest thing that Bailey said she loves about the school is the people who work there.

"We are a family," she said.

That is the way Avalon Guidance Counselor Dow Blue, who also started with the school 20 years ago, feels.

"It's been 20 years of success," Blue said. "We have a great district that gives us tons of support and a great principal with Dr. Shepherd."

Blue said as he looks back at pictures of former students from years ago he feels amazed how fast it seems the years have gone by.

"It seems like I have just seen them," he said. "It really is just amazing how fast the years have gone by."

Avalon will be planning a 20 year celebration event for the end of the school year to mark the anniversary.