When we decided to create an award to recognize members of our community who volunteer their time selflessly, there was little question but that it would be called the Thomas Malcolm Volunteer Award. For more than three decades as a Middle School science teacher and now also our Dean of Student Life, Mr. Malcolm has helped define the MPA experience by embodying our ideals of service on a daily basis.
What do you like best about teaching here?
The community of students, faculty, staff, and parents past and present are committed to education as an essential part of a meaningful, fulfilling life. I like the excitement and energy I feel at the beginning of each school day. I like running into former students and hearing about their progress through their academic careers and life experiences. I like being a part of Morgan Park Academy’s long history of education.
What are the most important life lessons you want students to learn in your class?
Ideas of respect, compassion, and service are important to me. Without values, subject matter is lifeless.
What do you think about the Thomas Malcolm Volunteer Award? Why is service to others an important value for you to model for our students?
Being publicly honored, having an award established in my name — it’s a little embarrassing. The point of volunteer service is getting beyond ourselves to focus on the needs of others. That’s why it’s important to show — not just tell — our students how to promote the greater good. I really love to hear stories of our students taking their care for others into the world beyond the Academy.
How did you come to teach here?
It was mostly a happy accident. I came to Chicago and needed a job. Somehow I found Morgan Park Academy, got an interview, and was hired. It’s worked out very well. The Academy is where I’ve found my calling.
Why do you teach in the Middle School? What do you like about working with students at that time in their lives?
It’s never dull! Students at this age are between two worlds, child and adult, with such rich potential. It’s where I feel most needed and where I can contribute most effectively.
What about MPA has changed, and what has stayed the same, since you first began working here?
The technology used in education is very different, but the needs of students and the mission of the school to meet those needs are essentially the same now as in the past. Education is the product of a real encounter between people. Every day at Morgan Park Academy, I bring myself, with my flaws, weaknesses, and doubts looking for authentic human interaction and learning.
What experiences or people had the most influence on you?
Winnie Theodore, Principal of the Lower and Middle Schools from 1965-1997, was a real inspiration to me. Her ability to guide students, parents, and faculty, her fairness, and her sense of justice made me aspire to bring these things to my workday. Vickie Hovanessian, Lillian Mackal, David Jones, Carol Riha, Judy Thorsen, Barb Tubutis, Mary Gerlich, Lillian Delaney, Martin Wolf, Jeff Heilman, and countless other colleagues have had a positive impact on me. But most of all, my immediate family — the acorns do not fall far from the tree.
What do you want your students to take away from having known you?
If they grow into being their own best selves, if they’re well-adjusted, compassionate, respectful, and do the best they can in life, then I can sleep at night.