Gordon named state parent volunteer
Father of three recognized for coat program, 10 years helping at school
Thomas Gordon said he doesn’t volunteer at his daughter’s elementary school for the attention, but he’s been getting plenty of that since being presented with Maryland’s top school volunteer award.
“It’s all been very overwhelming,” Gordon said. “I never think of myself as looking for awards, so I was just astounded.”
Last Friday, Gordon was announced as the recipient of the 2016 Maryland Parent Involvement Matters
Award (PIMA) during a gala awards ceremony, held at Martin’s West in Baltimore. He was selected from a field of 24 candidates, one from each Maryland school district, who had been invited to the event.
The other four finalists were Chen Chen of Anne Arundel County, Cheri Pegues of Baltimore County, Earnest Moore of Prince George’s County and Donna Turnamian of Wicomico County.
“Maryland schools are at their best when parents and other volunteers are working to improve each classroom for every child,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement. “I congratulate Mr. Gordon, along with all of the finalists, for outstanding contributions to our state’s students, schools and communities.”
The PIMA program was first instituted in 2008. It is the first program of its kind in the nation to spotlight parents and guardians who have a positive impact on public schools. Its goal is to encourage all parents to become involved in their children’s schools, according to the Maryland State Department of Education website.
Gordon was nominated by Indian Head Elementary School’s principal and staff, who noted he has been actively involved in the school for more than 10 years.
“Over the three years I’ve been here at Indian Head, he has been a very consistent volunteer,” said Principal Timothy Rosin.
Gordon began volunteering at Indian Head Elementary in 2005, when his oldest son was a student. He has continued to be a volunteer, even as his youngest child is in fifth grade.
Rosin said Gordon has been a tremendous help as a robotics coach, a Destination Imagination coach, and with the school’s Positive Behavioral Instruction and Supports program, where he mans the desk where students can exchange credit for good behavior for rewards.
Rosin said Gordon has also been a major supporter of the school’s Career Day, and has often come to the school in his role as a mounted U.S. Park Police Officer to speak with students about his work.
“It has a huge impact when the students see him riding up on his horse,” Rosin said. “He explains his job as a mounted police officer and also talks about what he does to care for his horse.”
Gordon also helped around the school, such as filing correspondence and displaying student artwork.
Gordon also began a new program at the school: Keeping Kids in Coats. The program collects donations of new and gently used coats and provides them to students in need to borrow or keep.
“They’re on this rack, and the kids will take them for recess, or for a few days, and then return them or not,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the program, which began approximately five years ago, provides approximately 10 to 15 coats a year to children in need.
“This project has been very successful and, with the help and donations from the community, has grown exponentially,” parent liaison Natache Sumter said in her nomination letter.
Gordon said he is humbled by the award, but feels there are other parents just as deserving.
“Listening to what some of the other candidates from the other counties were doing, I was astounded, I couldn’t imagine how they could choose between them,” Gordon said.
Gordon also said he owes much to his wife, who was named Indian Head’s Outstanding Volunteer in 2012.
“She’s also a great volunteer,” Gordon said. “I couldn’t do this without her.”
Gordon said he hopes the PIMA program will encourage other parents to become involved.
“There really is a need for giving of parents of their talents and their time. There is no way to measure what effect that has on the kids,” Gordon said. “Any program like this is great.”
Karen Salmon, acting Maryland superintendent of schools, commended Gordon in a statement.
“Thomas Gordon has been willing to do whatever it takes to improve the entire school community,” Salmon said. “Strong parental involvement strengthens our classrooms and schools, and Thomas never stops working to make Indian Head better for all students. His tireless commitment is an inspiration.”
Thomas Gordon, Maryland’s 2016 Parent Involvement Matters Award recipient, volunteers at an Indian Head Elementary School function.
Thomas Gordon, Maryland’s 2016 Parent Involvement Matters Award recipient, visits Indian Head Elementary School during a Career Day event to speak with students about his job as a U.S. Park Police mounted officer.