Henrico’s Top Teachers – Tom Mallory

Tuckahoe M.S., physical education
Like many long-time teachers, Tom Mallory has a number of former students who have kept in touch with him over the years since entering adulthood.

But not too many teachers are able to claim what Mallory can: at least three namesakes among those former students' progeny.

As a teacher and coach for 30 years at the same school, Tom Mallory is well known in the Tuckahoe Middle School and Douglas Freeman High School communities. His admirers say that Mallory has not only touched hundreds of lives as a teacher and coach, but has also mentored and supported countless young people after they made their way from school into the world.

One former student who wrote to nominate him said that Mallory was the person who inspired him to become a teacher and coach as well.

"He taught me the importance of having a goal in life and making sure that goal was met," wrote the nominator. "He always has high expectations for students, but does it in a very caring way."

Mallory, in turn, responds that two teachers in particular had a tremendous influence on him. Julian (Chick) Shinault, who was his teacher at J.R. Tucker High School, inspired him as a student, while C.G. Grizzard, his mentor and department chair, inspired him as he began his teaching career at Tuckahoe.

While many observers think of the classroom as the center of school learning, teachers like Mallory view sports, athletics and the playing field as valuable extensions of the classroom. The most challenging task facing teachers, Mallory contends, is to "make students understand that everything they do matters.

"It could be academic, social or athletic, but it is all important."

The pay-off for meeting those challenges is not something that can be measured in dollars, Mallory said; no teacher gets into the profession for the money. He finds his reward, instead, in "the opportunity to work with young people and have a small part in helping to mold their futures."

Mallory quoted a parent who once told him, "Lots of people can make lots of money, but not everyone can make a difference. Teachers make a difference."

Then he went on to muse about three former students who have grown up, married, and started families of their own -- and later informed Mallory that they named a child after him.

"They each said, 'Coach Mallory, you made a big difference in my life,'" Mallory recalls.

"That to me is the ultimate compliment."
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