After 28 years as a dedicated member of Deerfield’s faculty, Mr. Thomas Heise will retire from teaching at the end of this academic year.
While at Deerfield, Mr. Heise has taught a wide range of history courses, including US History, American Studies, Western Civilization, Africa and Latin America, as well as a wide range of senior history electives, including this year’s American Empire class and a course on the local history of Deerfield. He also spearheaded the design of a number of Deerfield history courses, most notably Modern Times, which is currently offered to seniors.
Mr. Heise values the opportunities Deerfield has provided to design his own history courses, stating, “As a teacher, the conditions you have in a classroom to teach the way that you believe is right are pretty special.”
Mr. Heise has served as chair of the History Department twice and coached Varsity and JV boys soccer throughout his time at DA. He also acted as the faculty chair for “Imagine Deerfield,” a 2009 strategic plan for Academy development.
According to its online reports, Imagine Deerfield served as “the Academy’s most ambitious fundraising campaign to date, designed to ensure that our students continue to have the best resources and opportunities available—and to provide new programs and initiatives that will secure our place as a leading secondary school.” When introducing the plan, Mr. Heise described its ultimate purpose, stating “The world calls to people who are flexible, broadly knowledgeable, interested and skilled, able to learn and grow, and generous of heart. The Imagine Deerfield plan, our response to that call, is the course we will follow to ensure that Deerfield continues to graduate students who serve the world nobly and well.”
Mr. Heise’s legacy at Deerfield can be easily measured through his deep influence on history students. Logan Knight ’17, who recently took American Empire and is a current student in Mr. Heise’s Freedom Summer to Ferguson elective, described Mr. Heise’s impact on his worldview: “I think [that]… no one can leave his class without feeling a responsibility for others and to do good in the world.”
Knight illustrated the powerful knowledge gained from Mr. Heise’s courses, stating how he now recognizes that, “We all have a responsibility for each other, to think about each other, and bad things happen only when we aren’t actively pursuing the good in the world.”
Karen Tai ’17, a student of Mr. Heise’s Honors U.S. History and Freedom Summer to Ferguson classes, believes that, for her, “Mr. Heise [is] the first history teacher who made history interesting and come alive.”
Tai enjoys Mr. Heise’s classes for their inspiring and stimulating nature. She described, “His classes are intellectually engaging and thought provoking. Just when you think you have an answer, he presses on, forcing you to think harder and deeper…His lessons on history are more than just facts; they are about understanding and considering everyone’s voice and point of view, no matter how small or different they are.”
When reflecting on his time at DA, Mr. Heise aims for the lessons taught within his classes to inspire students for years to come. He stated, “I hope [my students] would see the world with greater understanding. I hope they would have a level of curiosity that is higher after leaving a class of mine than it was before. I hope that they would encounter any number of examples in a course where people with good minds and great hearts help make the world better.”
Ultimately, Mr. Heise departs his teaching years hoping that “something about having been in this classroom and others at Deerfield will help people become the people they’re supposed to be.”
Mr. Heise leaves Deerfield, “very grateful for the support and friendship that [he has] received from adults in this community and very grateful for the students [he has] had the privilege of teaching here.”
Gratitude for Mr. Heise’s tenure at Deerfield is reciprocated by students and faculty alike. Tai expressed her appreciation for Mr. Heise, stating “His dedication to and passion for teaching and learning has been truly inspirational. He has a genuine compassion for his students…I owe much of where I am today to his invaluable advice and generous support.”
Mr. Mark Scandling, an English teacher and long time friend of Mr. Heise, believes that Mr. Heise’s dedication will hold a lasting impact on the Academy for years to come: “Mr. Heise always offered the best of himself, inspiring his students, his colleagues, and his school to do the same.”