The National Liberty Museum and State Farm recently announced that Harriton High School Spanish teacher Laurie Thomas and Lower Merion High School Social Studies teacher Tom Reed were two of only 11 teachers from throughout the Delaware Valley to be selected as 2018 "Teacher as Hero" award recipients. This program recognizes the work of exceptional educators who leverage their excellence in teaching to make a difference in the lives of students.
Along with their exemplary performance in the classroom, both Thomas and Reed go above and beyond as educators and leaders in their community through their dedicated efforts to their respective extracurricular programs and initiatives.
Thomas implemented the Freshmen Mentor Program at Harriton as a support to the high school's advisory program with the goal of helping ninth grade students successfully transition in to high school life while fostering a sense of community and belonging. The program gives students the opportunity to come together in 25-minute sessions to discuss issues important to them with their peers, such as the Gender Expansive and Transgender Policy, cyberbullying, digital citizenship and other topics. The mentors also encourage their ninth-grade counterparts to become involved in the community, share skills for talking with teachers and studying, and more. Thomas also runs Harriton's SpeakUp! program, which provides students the opportunity to sit down with parents and have open and honest conversations about topics like drugs and alcohol, mental health, body image, peer relationships and more.
Reed serves as sponsor of Lower Merion's buildOn community team, which works both locally and globally to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through education and service. Last year, the LMHS buildOn community team enjoyed a record-breaking year as 308 students recorded more than 12,000 hours of service through 111 projects throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. Reed is also the founder of Lower Merion's buildOn Trek program, which raises funds to construct schools in developing nations while providing students with a life-changing service learning experience. Since the program's inception, Reed and his students have raised more than $550,000 to construct seven schools and provide supplementary adult literacy programs in Haiti, Malawi, Nicaragua and Nepal.
Thomas and Reed will be honored during a special ceremony at the National Liberty Museum on Saturday, May 5.