ELKHART — Starting July 1, Thomas Neat may no longer formally work inside a school building, but he plans to continue several of the themes of those years by traveling, continuing to learn and making friends wherever he can.
Neat, 74, assistant superintendent of instruction for Elkhart Community Schools, is retiring this summer after working 18 years for the Elkhart school system and 51 years in education.
“It’s been a very honored profession and I’ve been very blessed by the opportunity,” he said.
Though he thought after high school that he would pursue a civil engineering degree, he ended up earning a degree from Ball State University’s Teachers College, then moving to Michigan to work as a community school director in multiple school buildings, while taking graduate school courses. He has also been a high school principal in Grand Rapids, Mich., superintendent of Anderson Community Schools and an educational leadership professor at Ball State.
A large part of his job has been staying in contact with public policy makers. He has attended the Third House meetings in Elkhart since he moved to the area, but he’s also been moderating them for more than 10 years. He’s enjoyed being able to hear the varying viewpoints and the discussions through the years.
“To be a true educator, you have to think beyond just your own day-to-day work, but how it all fits together,” he said.
Looking back through the years, he’s especially proud of Elkhart Community Schools’ strides for full-day kindergarten in all its schools and other measures toward promoting early childhood education.
He’ll miss the people he’s been able to work with through the years, but plans to continue to make more friends.
He wants to “just find ways to continue understanding our world and our many cultures and to develop as many friendships as I can,” he said. “That’s what I’ll do, am going to do.”
“This is home,” Neat said, but he and “the other Dr. Neat,” his wife, Sue, plan to travel.