Ridley Thomas’ Journey to HBHA


Annie Fingersh, Co-Editor in Chief

Slider image taken by Ben Fine.

A young Ridley Thomas woke up and immediately dreaded going to his job at a pharmaceutical marketing company, where he worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep, the same job he had for the past seven years. But then he smiled, it was the third Friday of the month! Every third Friday of the month, his company went to an inner-city school and read to the young kids. After about 6 months of these trips, Thomas was “looking forward to that third Friday more than I was looking forward to my own job.” So, he started taking teaching training classes in his spare time. After a year and a half, he earned a teaching degree and quit his job as a pharmaceutical sales rep to do what he wanted with his life.

 His first teaching job was at Académie Lafayette where he taught Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade for 12 years. After that, he opened a school, Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, which unfortunately had to close after two years due to a lack of enrollment. Next, Thomas taught at Citizens of the World Charter School, where he taught 3rd grade, 4th grade, was a reading specialist, and coordinated gifted students. When asked what it was like to teach disadvantaged students in previous teaching jobs, Thomas responded that if he was teaching 3rd grade he had “some kids reading at a 9th or 10th-grade level, and some kids reading at a 1st-grade level.” He said that the “most difficult challenge was trying to teach a class…where there is so much difference in their background and where they’re at.”

This is Thomas’ first year at HBHA, and he loves the new adventure of teaching the first graders. Photo by Ben Fine.

Thomas says that he likes being at HBHA, and he quickly realized that HBHA is a family and community and that’s something that stands out the most to him. After observation for a few weeks, Thomas concluded that there is little difference between his experiences with students at Citizens of the World,  Académie Lafayette, and HBHA. In his mind, the only difference is that students from each school come from varying backgrounds and have not been exposed to the same things, some of which are out of their control. Thomas’s teaching philosophy is to “guide them [students] towards seeing others’ perspectives and the empathy and understanding that naturally follows when we are able to…see through the eyes of others.” Thomas is excited to do some hands-on learning and get out of his comfort zone while teaching at HBHA.

HBHA is excited to welcome Thomas and his teaching philosophies to the school. Photo by Ben Fine.