Meet Mr. Thomas, Assistant Head of School
Recently, student journalists interviewed Assistant Head of School Brian Thomas for the Upper School student publication The Voice. Aanya Tiwari ’23 and Hollis Summers ’21 did a great job with the piece, and they have allowed us to share it here with light editing.
It was a pleasure interviewing Mr. Thomas. You will not want to miss his vibrant and engaging story!
Did Mr. Thomas pursue a career before entering the educational field?
We learned that Mr. Thomas was a passionate professional actor who got his start during his junior year at Yale University. Furthermore, Mr. Thomas started his acting career by working on stage, then moving up to television shows, and finally getting involved in movies.
Amazingly, Mr. Thomas started his acting career as a studio teacher for the child actors on the set of The Cosby Show. He taught history to one of the stars of the show and soon moved to Los Angeles as the Hollywood spin-off, A Different World, was produced. He shared, “Actors need something to do to sustain themselves…they do not work all of the time.” From conducting hurricane cleanups to painting houses, Mr. Thomas told us how he kept himself busy.
Why did he get involved in education?
What caught our attention was Mr. Thomas’ emphasis on his love of working in schools. He truly enjoyed filling in as a substitute teacher from time to time.
Why did he come to MICDS?
Despite success in the realm of theater, Mr. Thomas was unhappy doing the business side of his work and intended to take a break. He then taught at Marlborough School in Los Angeles, an all-girls high school founded around the same time as MICDS and quite similar to MICDS.
He was an English teacher for 7th and 8th graders and taught there for a few years before moving on to a rich variety of other teaching and leadership positions at independent schools. Mr. Thomas came to St. Louis from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he served in all-school leadership positions. Mr. Thomas came to MICDS because of its similarities with the previous schools. He works with students to push them to their full potential and connects students to the community (and much more!).
What are Mr. Thomas’ ideas for the art department here at MICDS?
“I rolled onto the board of COCA just recently!” From ideas like doing a one-man show to enjoying audio-books or even coordinating with some of his actor friends to conduct an “on camera” acting class, Mr. Thomas spoke about these passions and aspirations. He concluded his response by saying, “If I were to ever get involved in MICDS arts in any way, it would be something original or complimenting the brilliant work done by the teaching body in the arts program.”
How is the business side of MICDS different than that of acting?
“It’s like an orchestra [at MICDS], having a leader and people play well, being beautifully coordinated. It’s all about bringing out the best in people without you having to play the instrument.” Simply said, Mr. Thomas wishes to unleash students’ potential and creativity by way of guidance and interaction. Mr. Thomas believes in developing students’ unique, distinctive voices by providing them with tools like discussions, engaging methods of learning, etc. To conclude, he remarked that “As leaders, we fan the flames…focusing our attention on each and every one of you.”
What does he like most about his job?
“I love seeing the moments where the educational pieces come to life…I enjoy seeing students get excited about what they are passionate about.” He expanded by saying, “It is like a coach’s job… We are taking you in and giving back your best self; our job is to be a mirror into your future.”
What is something special about MICDS that is different from most schools?
Mr. Thomas brings up the point that the future is always advancing, so MICDS is “teaching you to think in this very elastic way, so you can get the most out of this place and you can be ready for whatever career or life you’re going to have, which may require a different set of skills that we don’t even know yet.” Learning in this free-flowing way allows the students at MICDS to flourish in a new world that is always getting more complicated. Learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem will allow us (the students) to take on problems with an open mind. This will give us an advantage because we can apply what we learn toward the “unknown” obstacles in the future. Also, the numerous cultures that are expressed at this school because of the diverse student body and families is something that we, as a community, are proud of.
What are his favorite cultural experiences?
“I love going into communities I don’t know that well and being able to exist in my own skin comfortably and again provide the appreciation or the interest in something that is not mine.” For example; he enjoyed the Pakistan presentation during the MICDS Parents Association Passport Series event.
What college advice does Mr. Thomas offer students here at MICDS?
Mr. Thomas states: “Definitely do your research. Maybe even take a year off between high school and college? Choose [classes at MICDS] not based on where you think it could get you. Choose classes based on…definitely what you enjoy, definitely what you’re interested in, definitely what’s going to stretch you, but not because it’s going to get you to MIT.” Likewise, students should stop focusing only on the grades. Mr. Thomas believes we should think that “‘I’m just going to do the best on this I can do right now’ because then you are less anxious and less worried about the grades because they kind of take care of themselves.”
What drove him throughout his schooling?
He states, “What drove me through school was connecting with people that I really loved.”