By Nick McDaniels – For the last 18 years I have spent August to June in a school setting, as a public school student in Carroll County, Maryland, an undergraduate student at Marquette, a public school teacher in Baltimore City, Maryland, and a graduate student. During this time, I have been in contact with hundreds of teachers and professors, many of them outstanding instructors and wonderfully caring people. I have yet to find a more amazing teacher than Mr. Dick Thompson, a recently retired Language Arts teacher.
I was one of thousands of students Mr. Thompson influenced in his nearly four decades long teaching career as a 7th grade teacher at West Middle School in Westminster, MD. No single person outside of my family has changed my life more positively than Mr. Thompson. As a 6th grade student, gifted, but often in disciplinary trouble, at East Middle School in Westminster, MD, I was becoming more and more frustrated with school and getting in more trouble as a result. Because of redistricting, I was able to begin my 7th grade year at West Middle School, where Mr. Thompson immediately took me under his guidance, mentoring me from that moment until now.
It is because of Mr. Thompson that I am a teacher. And it is Mr. Thompson that inspires me to continue teaching to the best of my ability whenever teaching starts getting the better of me.
He consistently supported me when I was a 7th grader instilling in me a love for reading and writing. He supported me as an 8th grader, then through high school, and into college, and now as a young teacher, he gives me advice, offers support, and encouragement, and keeps me focused on the children. Hundreds of students have charted better life courses because Mr. Thompson’s ability to educate the character inspires students to think first about others, creating, as many jesuit-educated would know it, young men and young women for others. And though he explicitly taught character-building lessons over the years, his students gained more, as I did, by simply holding themselves to the same standard he holds himself, to be as selfless as possible.
As a teacher, Mr. Thompson’s ability to move students in many ways made him special in the classroom. For the people out there that feel that test scores are more important than children and are skeptical of a teacher’s positive influence but for statistical support, rest assured, Mr. Thompson has a track record of helping students to excel on standardized tests. But more importantly, Mr. Thompson inspired students to love learning, to love coming to school. He poured himself into lessons, sharing his passion for the stories of Edgar Allan Poe with his students, building units around epic movies, allowing students to create projects to hone their skills in public speaking, and writing, all by ensuring that students are authentically interested in the material they are reading and writing about.
Because of Mr. Thompson, thousands of students are better readers and writers, and more caring people. Because of Mr. Thompson, someday I hope to make thousands more students better readers and writers and more caring people. And though his days at West Middle School are now over, his plans to volunteer regularly at schools, his church, and through mentoring programs, show that his love for bettering people’s lives will not be suppressed by retirement. This is the mark of an amazing teacher. Beyond the classroom, Mr. Thompson refuses to stop teaching, refuses to let a day go by without positively impacting someone.
On behalf of the students who had their lives changed by Mr. Thompson, thank you for your many years of service in the classroom. Thank you for all the work you will continue to do in your community. Thank you for inspiring us to be better people. Enjoy your retirement, and know that we will do our part to help others in the same way you have helped us.
Nick McDaniels ’09 graduated from Marquette with majors in English and secondary education and a minor in environmental ethics. He currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife Amie, his daughter Charlotte, Snort the dog and Snuggins the cat. He is pursuing a Masters Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision at Johns Hopkins University.