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Meet Tom Beggs, A Distinguished Educator

Photo of Tom Beggs2006 marks the silver anniversary of Tom Beggs' profound dedication to the students of De Anza College. He has taught both Physical Education and Adapted Physical Education, gaining a loyal following for decades both on and off campus.

"Tom has endured the ups and downs of unstable budgets but never faltered in providing excellent instruction," said Judy Miner, vice president of Instruction. "The shortest conversation with him communicates that this is an instructor with a heart of gold and a phenomenally positive spirit."

One of Tom's nominators for the Distinguished Educator Award captured the appreciation and fondness for Tom that are typical of his students. "Tom teaches…older adults, some are terribly disabled. He is always upbeat. He remembers everyone's names amazingly, even when he hasn't seen us in a while. He has made me see the importance of exercise, and I have never been a fan of sports of any kind and certainly not of exercise. He makes the sessions fun."

His love for teaching is evident in the way he interacts with students. "Tom treats everyone he meets with the same warmth and enthusiasm," said Ellen Mann, instructional associate in Adapted Physical Education. "He has the ability to make each of his students feel that they have his attention and he is teaching directly to them," she said. "As a staff, we joke that Tom never says 'no' to anyone. His classes often are bursting at the seams. He will teach you in a class and 'repair your car' in his spare few minutes. He is always on the go and juggling many balls at the same time."

His inspiration to teach comes from his mother and father, who were elementary level teachers in Palo Alto and Cupertino schools. "Dr. Steve Sellitti also inspired me when I served as a student assistant in the highly acclaimed APE program here in the 1970s," Tom said.

Tom's teaching has evolved over the years into one of more tolerance for individual learning, he said. "Having children of my own has been a reminder that within a set of parameters there are many successful yet different ways to meet life's challenges. With young students being so talented behind a computer, it is my own journey to keep up with the concurrent technology needed to stimulate further student learning."

Phyllis Garrison, administrative assistant in the program, testified to Tom's composure. "Patience, kindness and a sense of humor are the most important things I've learned from him. What has set Tom apart from many other instructors is the fact that he truly cares. He recalls details that the students share and makes a real connection with them. I want to be like Tom when I grow up!"

Larry Bloom, another of Tom's co-workers and a specialist in Adapted Physical Education, praised him as a role model. "When I see Tom teaching every day with a sense of enjoyment and high energy level, it helps to reinforce our love for teaching. His loyal and attentive students are a testament to his dedication and spirit in the field of teaching."

Larry described Tom's classes as full of energy and excitement. "Generally they start with a low buzz in anticipation of his arrival. Upon Tom's arrival the class is full of smiles and is at the ready for a workout filled with story telling, personal introductions of new students or updates on students who have been out, the latest and greatest music and of course an hour's worth of exercise that meets the needs of his student population. At different times the class is laughing and/or sweating, but at all times the class is fully engaged, learning to work their bodies to the best of their ability."

Phyllis said Tom's enthusiasm is absolutely contagious! "He is very kind and patient with students who speak English as a second language and he is extraordinary working with the disabled population. Tom is a phenomenal instructor."

Tom acknowledged that his students have incredible life-worlds and he loves working with students of various disabilities, both young and old. "Just being part of their struggles and victories is more than enough to make me want to be at De Anza College at least five days a week."

Jim Haynes, executive head of the Adapted Physical Education Program, can't get over Tom's boundless energy. "For years I've kept thinking that Tom will slow down just like the rest of us when he gets a little older. Well, Tom keeps getting older and his energy and enthusiasm for teaching remain as high as ever. I wish we had 10 more Toms working for us. Students love him and flock to his classes. I'm very glad he got this recognition."

Tom said his heroes are Eleanor Roosevelt, John Muir and Jimmy Carter. "While these people did not directly choose teaching as a profession, their presence on the environment, education and leadership sustained them well into their adult lives. These individuals provide hope that we can continually change and be change agents in our dynamic global world."

His advice for his students? "Choose a career with meaning. Constantly try to seek fun in your life and try to take care of our environment so that the next generation can live and prosper."

Tom chose "The Birds of Heaven" by Peter Matthiessen as his award from Judy's stash of autographed books.

Office of Instruction
Building: ADM 128

Contact: Olga Evert
Phone: 408.864.8940


Last Updated: 9/30/08