An energetic person and seasoned educator, Thomas hit the ground running after signing her contract at Wednesday’s board meeting. She immediately went to work that afternoon, and with the exception of tying up some loose ends in Aransas Pass yesterday (Friday), Thomas is here to stay.
Thomas comes from a Texas family but was born in Virginia due to her father’s Navy career. She lived in Guam when she was a small child before her father was stationed in Corpus Christi.
Thomas’ mother did not want to live in the city, so the family moved to Bishop, where Thomas and her brother, now Bee County emergency management coordinator David Morgan, went to school.
After graduating from high school in Bishop, Thomas attended college at Texas A&I University, now Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.
“I was positive I was not going to teach,” Thomas said.
However, she had begun as an education major. Her first class in the field was taught by a “hippie” teacher who brought his guitar to class and sang about the need for change.
“I thought, if this is education, I don’t want anything to do with it,” said Thomas.
While in college, Thomas met and married her husband. They moved to Alpine, Texas, so he could finish his education before moving back to Bishop so she could complete hers.
Thomas’ son found a job teaching and coaching in Sinton, where the couple’s first son was born.
The family had been there for a year when the high school principal called Thomas and said he needed an English teacher.
“I told him I didn’t have a teaching certificate, but he didn’t care,” said Thomas. “I was 26 years old when I walked into my first classroom. I had no preparation, no student teaching, nothing.”
Thomas became emergency certified and taught five different English classes in five different classrooms.
“That first year is still a blur,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I wish I could apologize to those students.”
Thomas said that despite the stress and her initial reluctance, she absolutely loved the job.
“That was in 1973, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.
The Thomas family moved to Wylie, in North Texas, for a short time. There, Thomas substitute taught while she was expecting her second son. Then, she taught full-time for one year before the family returned to Sinton.
She has taught high school, sixth grade and her last year in the classroom, she taught fourth grade in a self-contained room.
“I loved that,” said Thomas. “It gave me a different perspective on teaching because I had always taught secondary. In fourth grade, I taught every subject, so it made me really understand what it’s like to be a teacher.”
Since she has taught at all three levels – elementary, middle and high school – Thomas said she has observed that many times, elementary teachers teach kids, whereas secondary teachers teach subjects.
“Since I became a principal, I’ve wanted secondary teachers to adopt that philosophy of teaching kids too,” said Thomas. “I think it makes a difference to think about teaching in those terms.”
Thomas stayed at the elementary level for one year. She had moved to that school when her husband became principal of Sinton High School, and a year later, she had finished her mid-management certificate, which was the requirement to become a principal at the time.
Thomas said that she decided to move into administration, mainly because it was the next goal she could strive for.
She was already in graduate school simply because she wanted to keep learning, so she obtained the mid-management certificate as well. She would later receive her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Texas A&M Universities-Corpus Christi and Kingsville in 1995.
She was hired as the assistant principal at Alice High School and commuted there from Sinton for two years before becoming the assistant superintendent in West Oso ISD.
After that job, Thomas moved back to Alice for a few years and worked in the central office as testing coordinator before her husband was hired as assistant superintendent in Aransas Pass.
“By that time, one of my sons was in college and the other was in high school,” Thomas said. “And my husband wanted a place on the water.”
Thomas thought that commuting from Aransas Pass to Alice seemed like an awfully long way, so when the middle school principal position became available in Aransas Pass, she took the job.
She stayed at that school for one year before becoming the high school principal, where she stayed for three years. She has worked in the Aransas Pass ISD central office in some capacity until this week.
“I actually retired in 2001 for one month, before I went back to work part-time,” she said.
Thomas said she had never intended to completely retire, and in 2007, she was asked to be interim superintendent in that district and ended up staying full-time for the past three years.
Thomas’ immediate family consists of her husband, her two sons and five grandchildren. One of her sons is the manager at Chili’s Bar & Grill in Beeville. The other is in the U.S. Marine Corps and stationed in San Francisco, Calif.
When she’s not busy with her work, Thomas spends her time quilting and in other arts and crafts activities. She also enjoys home projects such as painting and putting up Sheetrock.
“It’s a good stress reliever,” she said.
Thomas said that she finds life to be very rewarding.
“I really enjoy what I do [as superintendent], or I wouldn’t do it,” she said simply.
Thomas believes learning is a necessity at all stages of life and likes to try anything new.
“We need to be lifelong learners,” she said. “I like the next challenge. I think it keeps you young.”
Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or firstname.lastname@example.org.