Like most college students, Thomas needed a job to make ends meet so she became a substitute teacher.
Thomas was smitten. She graduated and immediately began studies to earn teaching credentials.
“I’m going to be a teacher for as long as I can,” Thomas says. “I love it!”
The students touched her life in a way that sealed her future career.
“Teachers can make such a big impact on a student,” she said. “They can help a child discover their dreams and aspirations and help them make good decisions.”
On Monday, Refugio Elementary began school with Thomas as the new principal.
Born and reared in Victoria, Thomas is no stranger to this area. After college, she returned home to teach algebra and geometry at Stroman-Memorial in Victoria ISD. She then became an administrator at Edna.
“The mix of students in Refugio and Edna are relatively the same,” she said.
The new principal expects about 400 students at Refugio Elementary this year. So far, 392 began the first term.
First thing Monday morning, all the students and faculty gathered in the cafeteria.
“I wanted to see the whole student body and faculty come together as one big team,” she said. “I want everyone to feel like it’s one whole campus.”
The students will begin each day in the cafeteria where they will say the pledges and listen to announcements in person.
“I want the children to see me every day and see all the other students and all the teachers together,” she said.
Looking back, she remembers two educators who made an impact on her days as a youngster, including her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Spell at O’Connor Elementary, and her high school band director, Randy Kelley.
“Mrs. Spell made me feel very smart and helped me to be in spelling bees,” Thomas said. “Mr. Kelley helped me to find my talent and not settle for anything less. He believed in me and he pushed me – that’s what some kids need, an extra boost.”
Under Kelley she thrived and became a drum major both in high school and at Sam Houston State, where she played the French horn.
The educator also is excited about a book presented to the faculty by Lisa Herring – the “Energy Bus.”
“We want everybody on the ‘Energy Bus,’ to have positive energy in dealing with situations,” she said. “We can’t have ‘no-energy vampires’ on this campus, everybody must be on the ‘Energy Bus.’
“We need teachers to bring out the best in the students and not settle for anything less.
The principal says children must be held accountable for their actions but at the same time, they must be helped to be the best they can be.
“If you gain a child’s heart and give them your trust and respect, they’ll do the world for you,” Thomas said.
The principal remembers the day she arrived in Refugio to interview for the job.
“I didn’t know where the administration office was so I stopped at the new seventh and eighth grade building,” she said. “Two teachers were there. Both were very welcoming and friendly. I was astonished and I felt at home.”
One of the teacher’s daughters walked with her to the administration building.
“Three people came in and stopped to ask if I needed help,” the principal said. “I felt right at home. They made me feel comfortable. It’s nice to be treated that way.”
She is the mother of two sons, Cameron, 5, and Braylen Ross, 17.
A spiritual person, Thomas said she believes that God places people in particular places for a reason.
“He put me here to make a difference,” she said. “Being an educator is my destiny.”