Open letter to Tom Rex

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Open letter to Tom Rex

Dear Tom,

Upon this, your year of retirement, I felt compelled to let the world know just what a fine principal I believe you have been. I’ve known you a much shorter time than many folks on our staff, but nonetheless, the time I worked for you speaks volumes about the person you are.

So, let me share with the world…

Our years together began on rocky ground. You hired me to teach 4th grade, but enrollment didn’t allow for this to happen. Instead, in the first weeks of my first year with you we put together a new kindergarten class, hired an assistant, and made a 4th grade classroom, look as though kindergarten children belonged there.

Just after getting children into my classroom, my mother suffered a major stroke.  The morning I informed you of this, your words to me were to go home, see about my mother, and “What can we do for Cooper?” You really didn’t even know me, but your commitment to family and “people” came shining through. I went home.

When I called you later in the week to give you an update, you never asked if I had plans written or a sub lined up. You simply reminded me that y’all were more than able to handle my absence. When I broke into tears from exhaustion and relief that you weren’t demanding lesson plans from me, you listened, told me you knew it was hard, told me to take care of my mom, and asked “What can we do for Cooper?”

When I called right before school started my second year  with you, I had to ask if I could miss the staff development days because we were moving my mother into an assisted living facility. You, of course, said not to worry about school- my team would fill me in when I returned.

Later, I came and told you I would have to have back surgery in the summer. You asked, “What about Cooper?”

When I returned after the summer surgery and recovery, I realized I physically could not teach 5 full days a week. I had to take 1/2 days off on Wednesday for a while so I could make it through the week. You never complained. You asked, “What about Cooper?”

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s you accepted that information with listening ears.

These are only a few of the many times in my short time spent working with you that you rose above the clamor of the daily grind and realized that life was happening, that souls needed healing, and that the picture was larger than writing plans and calling subs.

Finally, during our last winter break when my mom passed, you called me and said what I remember to be “all the right things.” And again, in true Tom Rex fashion you asked, “What about Cooper?” Sure, he was one of your Bobcats, a child you are “supposed” to care about, but with you it was genuine concern about Cooper! Nothing, means more to a mom than for someone to genuinely care and show concern for her child. And that, Tom, is perhaps the true legacy you leave behind: genuinely caring and being concerned about children.

From the top comes the stance held by all those who work with you. When you live the life of one who genuinely cares for his people- adult and child alike- that resonates through the entire school. Children have never been numbers or test scores to you. They have always been people.

While I am grateful for all the support you have continuously given to me, I am even more grateful for the focus you have maintained on my child and every other Bobcat in the building. It has indeed been a pleasure to work with you and to raise my child in the environment you have created.

God bless you on your retirement. May it be a time of pure enjoyment!


PS- To my colleagues, I’m sure you have a thought or two that you’d love for the world to know about Tom. Please feel free to add your comments to this post!

| Uncategorized | June 06, 2011

About the author

Wynn Godbold is an inspired educator who stretches herself and those around her to new heights. Her work as a speaker, trainer, and administrative coach carries her across the United States where she spreads her message of inspiring teachers to reach children with authenticity, joy, and success. Her teacher retreats are known to empower teachers to love their lives. Teachers world-wide experience personal growth through the products and packages she offers on line. In June of 2012, Wynn kick started the International Academy of Bee Sharp Teachers. Wynn is Nationally Board Certified in Reading and the Language Arts. She has certifications in Education Administration, Elementary and Early Childhood Education. In addition to running Bee Sharp, she consults for the McGraw Hill Education Group and serves on the Educational Team at Page Turner Adventures. Wynn lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with her husband, two sons, and the family dog, JR.

8 Responses to "Open letter to Tom Rex"
  • Elaine June 6, 2011

    I too thank you for your focus on family. I have said my many thanks to you during the last couple of weeks for your faith in me as a teacher, but I forgot to thank you for your concern for my children and family as well, especially Melissa who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at age 12. Your thoughtful words during a time of concern gave me courage to know that she would be alright. She is now 22 years old with an education degree and a minor in spanish. She has traveled to Dominican Republic, Educador, and Spain.

    I was thrilled to meet your daughter on Saturday. She speaks highly and with deep love of her father whose passion for education kept you busy many days, but each night you were tuned into her and her sister and what they were doing in their lives.

    What a special family you have and thank you for sharing them with us and how important it is to put family first.


  • Cary Rowell June 6, 2011

    Tom was assistant principal when my daughter, Hannah, attended. We have always felt fortunate for that pairing. Thanks for being there. We wish you the best in retirement.

  • Janice Heilman June 7, 2011

    I have been fortunate enough to work with Tom Rex for the past six years as his Assistant Principal. He is indeed one of the most caring people for others- never himself- that I have ever known. Every day working with Tom has been a pleasure. Even on some of the most disheartening days, Tom has a funny comeback that lifts your spirits and just makes you laugh. Lakewood is a very special place largely in part because of Tom’s influence, I can’t even begin to think about how much we’ll miss him. Tom, we will move on, and we’ll be fine, but we’ll never be quite the same without you!

  • Barbara Rauch June 7, 2011

    You have given me the second chance that everyone deserves. When others did not have faith in me, you did! I will always be grateful to you and Johnny for that.

    I too experienced many family problems over the years. Just like Wynn and Elaine, you were MORE concerned about my family than my classroom. Being on such wonderful and caring team in first grade, I did not worry.

    As I sit in my classroom and look out at the baby bluebird’s mom constantly bringing food to the babies, I will always remember your love of nature. It is everywhere on our campus because of your Saturdays and dedication.

    Your constant caring and loving of our children has made LKE the best! As we all gathered around you Saturday night and sang “We Are Family,” we bonded together as a faculty. With your retirement in mind, please don’t foget you will always be a part of our school. I can hear now, “Remember when Tom did this…”

  • Barb DeCarlo June 10, 2011

    When my daughter, Nicole started second grade at Lakewood after relocating from Connecticut, I became the “room Mom” in Mrs. May’s class. I had met Tom as I was quick to volunteer in the classroom or wherever needed. One day Tom said to me “why don’t you become a sub, you are here all the time, you should get paid for it”. I went and put my name on the sub list and it was not very long before Tom offered me a position as a one on one with the sweetest girl I could ever meet.

    Knowing how much I wanted to stay at Lakewood, when the Child Development class was added, Tom said “I think you would be great as the assistant in this class.” So, I did it.

    At the beginning of the 2008 school year, my husband had a mild stroke and was in the hospital and rehabilitation for the first 2 months of school. Tom, never asked when I was coming back to school. He always said “take care of Mike & Nicole, we have you covered here”. To this day Tom’s caring and concern for my family means the world to me. This is the most selfless man I have ever met in my life. He ALWAYS puts others before himself. I can certainly say that Tom Rex has set the perfect example for the children by always teaching that “to have a friend, you have to be a friend”.

    Whenever I would doubt myself, Tom would always be there to say, “you can do it, I know you can”. This year Tom made me a Kindergarten Assistant and I cannot begin to say how much I appreciate all the faith he had in me. I went into it being very nervous, and Tom just gave me the push and the confidence I needed. He always had a pep talk when I or anyone else needed it.

    Tom, you will be missed more than you will EVER know. Lakewood will continue on but it will never be the same without you there. I will always have a special place in my heart for you and I will miss you more than words can say.

    I wish for you a wonderful retirement. Stay well and enjoy life. You so deserve it.

  • Joy Resor June 13, 2011


    What a beautiful testimony to an incredible human being named Tom Rex.
    I’m so glad you and myriad families were positively seen and held by such a dear soul. Blessings to you Tom for a rich retirement journey!


  • Jovanna June 15, 2011

    Wynn, You’ve written such a beautiful story of love and caring and it is certainly a testament to one person’s ability to enhance so many lives. I’ve never met Tom but my heart warms with appreciation for his kindness.

  • Maria Gatch June 30, 2011

    I agree with Janice, Lakewood will never be the same. I am so fortunate that my children went to Lakewood. They are now teenagers and still recall their time at Lakewood and somehow Tom’s name is always mentioned. One of their favorite memories is of him at Camp KATE with them.

    Today I am a kindergarten teacher thanks to the encouragement of Tom and Christie Anderson. After they both encouraged me to become a sub, they then gave me the opportunity to do a long-term sub position. I wasn’t a certified teacher, but they believed in me. Afterward, Tom suggested that I get me teaching degree. Whenever I would see Tom he would always ask me how my classes were and was always helpful and encouraging, but then again that’s just Tom…he truly cares about children and their families.

    With Tom gone from Lakewood, as well as, some amazing and inspiring teachers, Lakewood will truly never be the same.

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