Thornton Academy News

  • Academics
  • Upper School
Featured Faculty: Tom Rackmales –TAMS 6th Grade Teacher

Tom Rackmales is one of TAMS’ sixth-grade teachers. This semester, Mr. Rackmales is teaching math, English, and science. His school experience looked a bit different than most of his current students. Mr. Rackmales is the son of a career Foreign Service officer, and he spent his childhood in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Italy, Nigeria, and Virginia. From grade 8 through 12, he was enrolled at an international school in Rome, Italy where he was a day student for three years, and spent his final two as a boarding student. From there, he attended the University of Virginia where he was educated as an Echols Scholar. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing while holding a University Fellowship at Syracuse University, and completed his Secondary English teaching certification at George Mason University.

Mr. Rackmales has also worked as a soccer referee and coach, as a cheese and wine buyer, and as a picker in the warehouse at L.L. Bean. He got into teaching because he enjoyed being around kids, and for the most part liked school all of his life, “even as a kid, though seventh-grade was awful!” He met his wife, Marta, in the D.C. area when she was teaching. “I saw how much she loved the work, started coaching girls' soccer at her school as a first experience working with kids, and have loved the work for over twenty years now.” He and his wife Marta — a teacher at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport — live in mid-coast Maine with their children, Robert and Tizita.

 

What is the best thing about teaching at TA? What is the most challenging?
“Two aspects of teaching at TA stand out as "bests" for me: the extraordinary diversity of our student body; and our close-knit community that looks out for one another...I'm not dodging the next question when I say that our diversity is also the most challenging aspect of teaching here. I've had the privilege of teaching at the high school and the middle school and it is certainly the case in both places: we have students from beautiful large cities around the world and students from beautiful small towns here in Maine.”

What is a favorite TA memory?
“It is so hard to pick one favorite memory from TA; just about every team I've been with has provided great joy. Our two Academic World Quest state titles stand out, as does a JV Girls' Soccer win at an excellent Gorham team when we scored twice in the final 10 minutes to win 2-1. (It was a day when we'd all gotten up at 5 or earlier to be on TV for a food drive rally, and it remains one of the exceptional team efforts I've ever been part of.)”

 

What do you hope for your students?
“I hope my students find purpose, passion, and joy in what they do.”

What do you hope for the future of TA?
“I hope TA continues to be a bright light for Maine and for the wider world, bringing people together for learning, understanding, and community.”

How do you spend your time when you're not at TA? Favorite activities or pastime?
“My favorite activities are hiking (even in winter!) and camping, enjoying the beautiful outdoors this great state offers as much as possible. I'm a huge sports fan and watch a lot: Serie A (Roma is my first true sports love) and Premier League soccer; and all UVA sports, especially basketball during the winter.

Faculty Fun Facts!
Favorite food: Steamers
Favorite book(s): So Long, See You Tomorrow by WIlliam Maxwell; Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami; and Tenth of December by George Saunders
Favorite movie: Spirited Away
Favorite song: “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine

Thank you for your appreciation of student diversity, and the energy you share in your teaching and coaching. Your enthusiasm helps students and players cultivate their purpose, passion, and joy. TAMS sixth graders are lucky to start their middle school career in your classroom!