Thompson moves into new position, accepts challenge


Story by Gabe Stanton, Staff Writer

Kathryn Thompson always knew she wanted to be a teacher. But it wasn’t until she experienced, firsthand, what education shouldn’t be that she got the drive to actively pursue a career in that field.

“I had a very horrible encounter with a teacher in high school,” Thompson said. “And it just created an environment that was so hostile, and just not conducive to student learning… It was like: ‘no one deserves this.’ So that was kind of the push.”

Now, Thompson is Dean of Students at East Meck and has worked for 10 years to create an environment that is conducive to student learning. Starting out as a World History and History of the Americas teacher, Thompson taught history for the last four years, before being offered the position of Dean of Students. In that time, Thompson firmly believes that her students have taught her a lot.

“Everyone always talks about how students are lucky to have teachers, but I learned early on, that I was always the lucky one in terms of my students …” Thompson said. “I feel like I’ve learned so many lessons from them; too numerous to even begin to list.”

Thompson is also quite active in the student community. For several years, Thompson was the adviser for Student Congress, coordinating activities with them including Homecoming, Reverse Homecoming and the Student Hunger Drive, among others. However, one of Thompson’s most notable contributions to East has been Pop-Up Prom.

“Prior to being involved in Student Congress, I planned prom,” Thompson said. “I planned prom for three years at East, and really saw how expensive prom was: the burden it puts on families. And it’s such a memorable occasion, so you want it to be remembered for positive rather than ‘someone didn’t get to go.’ It puts such a financial stressor on families… This is just kind of an easy way to break down those barriers and make it attainable to everyone.”

Since its inception, Pop-Up Prom has not only helped out many members of East’s student body, it has also greatly expanded.

“We created Pop-Up Prom about four years ago,” Thompson said. “We received a grant from Chick-Fil-A for $1,000 to help with the initiative. And since then, it’s just grown so much. So I think now, last year, we had almost 700 dresses.”

While it may be just another Student Congress activity for some, many students at East have been affected by Pop-Up Prom, and for those students, it can be a huge help.

“The people working it were all really nice and supportive and they made there be a fun vibe to it,” said East Meck senior Zoe Smithwick, who went to Pop-Up Prom last year. “The [participants] seemed to be happy with everything there and I thought it was, overall, a really cool idea.” 

Smithwick didn’t buy any dresses, but she said that Pop-Up Prom is a great help to East’s student body.

“I think it’s beneficial,” Smithwick said, “because, especially for people that can’t afford   expensive prom dresses, it provides a really good selection for $10 at most.”

Thompson began laying the groundwork for her current job when she participated in CMS’s Leaders for Tomorrow program several years ago.

“A few years ago, Mr. Parker kind of approached me about getting involved in this educational program that CMS offers,” Thompson said. “And so I told myself I would apply, and, if I got accepted, that I would do it. And then I applied, and I got accepted, so I had to do it. And so I went to graduate school and got my master’s from Winthrop, in educational leadership… So I guess about three years ago the opportunity for the Dean of Students position came available. And it just felt like the right time. I felt like: ‘I’m ready for a new challenge.’ So, here it is.”

Principal Rick Parker says that promoting Thompson to the Dean of Students position was the right idea.

“I noticed she had a very, very strong work ethic,” Parker said, “and was very passionate about helping kids as a social studies teacher. Then, I put her in as our Student Congress representative for the school and was the heartbeat of the school, of all the activities going on… So I knew with her skillset, with what she brought to the table … that she’d be a great fit for that position… To have somebody like that on your team, it makes you better, makes you stronger… I’m very, very proud to have her as one of my teammates. She’s earned it.”

In some ways, Thompson’s new job is similar to teaching. In others, it’s radically different.

“It’s just a different type of work,” Thompson said. “Teachers have the hardest job in the world. And I don’t have the lesson plans or papers to grade. But it’s an interesting kind of time management skill. If I’m dealing with discipline or a student matter, I have to get that done from 7:30 to 2:30… And then what I take home is a lot of responding to emails and paperwork, and that kind of thing. I have to work after-school events and go to sporting events, but at the end of the day, teaching is still one of the hardest things.”

This may be true, but Thompson is still optimistic.

“A lot of people talk about how education changes,” she said, “and how it’s not what it used to be and whatnot, and kind of really deters people from wanting to go into education. Yeah, there are things that are very frustrating. But there are things that are frustrating in any job… I would just encourage anyone to pursue it, but know what you’re getting into.”

According to Thompson, however, all the time and effort that teachers put in is worth it in the end.

“I never had a backup. Nor do I want a backup… Having students come back that you’ve taught years prior, and then talk about either the impact that you’ve had on them or the impact that East has had on them is—I mean, you can’t trade that for anything,” Thompson said.