Las Virgenes Unified School District Teacher of the Year Thomas Beaton has a unique way of connecting with students and remembering a little something about them.
“I give them nicknames, which makes for a good ice breaker,” said Beaton, who goes by the nickname 'Mr. Wonderful' in all his math classes at Agoura High School.
“He is truly Mr. Wonderful,” said Principal Larry Misel, who nominated Beaton for the honor. “He is also one of the humblest men on campus.”
“The kids love him because they all get personalized attention in his class and he truly connects with them,” said Misel.
“The longer I teach, the bigger the gap is in age between my students and myself," Beaton, 59, explained, "so I have to break that wall.”
The Boston native who has been teaching math for 36 years, 21 of which were at Agoura High, described his teaching style in a nutshell.
“I’m very hands-on I would say because I’m not the only problem solver for the entire period," said the teacher who teaches songs to help review math rules. "We approach problems as a team.”
Aside from following his dad’s footsteps who was also an educator, the Calabasas resident also credits Frank Kelly, his high school math teacher for inspiring him to follow his true calling.
“He made us go to the board to solve problems,” he said of his mentor.
Another inspiration was Geno DiSarcina, his basketball coach whose great rapport with kids was almost legendary.
“It’s probably because of him that my only other career was as a sports coach when I was a teen," said Beaton.
Since mentoring students comes naturally to Beaton, he pioneered a math tutoring program at the school 17 years ago. High-performing math students help struggling students get a better grasp of math.
“It’s unique to the area and we’ve seen the benefits," said Misel. "Test scores have gone up and the students participate in two math competitions every year.”
Beaton also sponsors the school-wide Math Olympics every year, complete with medals and recognition for all participants.
It’s not the recognition and adulation that keep Beaton going. It’s seeing the dramatic improvement in students from August to June.
“When they learn how to solve problems, take notes better and when they come back and tell me they appreciate it - that’s the most terrific feeling in the world,” he said.