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!