An eighth grade teacher at Clewiston Middle School was recognized by Governor Rick Scott not only for his dedication as a teacher, but also for his service in the military.
Samuel Thomas was one of seven teachers to receive a Governor’s Shine Award earlier this month and was recognized for his nearly 22 years in the United States Navy.
Thomas is in his third year of teaching, a profession he said he never planned on pursuing.
“When I first retired [from the Navy] I was going to take a year off. I told my mom, ‘I’m getting bored,’ so I went to the education office and decided to sub. But they hired me on permanently,” said Thomas in an interview with The Clewiston News. “I was planning on going overseas, but I still find myself here. I love my job here.”
Thomas was born and raised in Moore Haven and joined the Navy in early 1990s. His more than two-decade career took him everywhere from Norfolk, Va. to Japan, Spain, Italy and Iceland.
“It was very interesting and provided me a view of the world that really opened my eyes to how things work on an international level,” said Thomas.
That view of the world, coupled with his military training, has helped him 130 percent in his education career, he said.
“It gives me a chance to work with different personalities. They [8th graders] are just coming into their own. I can motivate them, and read different signs and body cues as to what they need.”
Thomas also said that while in the military a mistake could cost lives, a student can be offered a second chance by going back, regrouping and retesting.
There are no words, said Thomas, for the look on a student’s face when he sees the progress he’s made.
“I just love the job and really appreciate that I was given the opportunity to teach. Mr. Ensor, Mrs. Durance, Mr. Cooper, Mrs. Duckstein, Mr. Puletti — they’re always ready to offer assistance when it’s needed. I also appreciate the community for letting me teach their children. I haven’t met a parent yet who hasn’t been supportive of me.”
Thomas received the Shine Award from Gov. Scott in Tallahassee the Tuesday before Veterans Day. Along with Gov. Scott, cabinet members and State Attorney Pam Bondi were there to recognize Thomas and the other six teachers.