For the past 27 years, a single face has reflected Collingswood Public School District's curriculum.
On July 1, Dr. Thomas Anderson, 62, will retire as curriculum director, leaving a legacy district administration say will be impossible to match.
"Dr. Anderson has been dedicated to program expansion and improvement for many years," said District Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Oswald. "He's never afraid to speak his mind or challenge my ideas, (a quality) I respect immensely. He's helped me become a stronger administrator and make stronger decisions."
Prior to becoming curriculum director in 1985, Anderson led a career in education that—including his time in the borough—spans 40 years.
He received his bachelor's degree at Allegheny College, and later his master's while working a teaching program in Cleveland, Ohio—where he met his wife. The couple soon decided to return to the East Coast, and their families.
Anderson worked as an assistant principal in Ocean County before the position was eliminated, then found employment with the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) in Hudson County for one year.
A stranger to Collingswood at that time, Anderson applied for the position and quickly fell in love with the borough. He earned his Ph.D. while living here.
"I was very impressed by Collingswood's small-town feel, and that it was a walking district for students," he said. "I'd originally wanted to move back to my home state of New York. Until I came to Collingswood."
To Superintendent Oswald, Anderson's New York heritage found a way to stake claim in Collingswood anyway.
"Dr. Anderson brings with him many great qualities—and a few ugly ones, like his Mets-Giants thing, but we try to work through that," joked Oswald.
Once settled, Anderson quickly took initiative in the borough's school system.
"I don't like to think I instituted any one thing (alone); we accomplished these things together, as a district," Anderson said of his contributions.
He helped Collingswood become the first district in the area to institute a full-day Kindergarten program at no cost. Prior, only half-day programs were available.
But the Virtual High School program is a particular source of pride for Anderson.
After teaching an online class about the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1997—due to his passion for American history and exploration—that involvement gained Collingswood High School students access to online courses.
"We were the first district in New Jersey, and the first of 10 high schools in the country to provide online courses to high school students," he said. "They get credit for each course, like an additional elective. In many cases, we don't offer certain AP classes in the school, but they're available to students online."
Additionally, Anderson helped institute two progressive math programs, methodology commonly known as Everyday Math..
"He's been instrumental," said Oswald of his colleague. "Most impressive to me is his ability to stay abreast of the newest innovations in education—particularly technology and online/distance learning. He started teaching 40 years ago, but he's never been stuck in the past when it comes to harnessing the power of technology to meet the needs of our kids."
With his three, college-graduate sons now immersed in their own adulthood, Anderson says retirement will be filled with reading, golfing, and travelling with his wife of nearly 39 years.
"We'd like to head out West, visit some Lewis and Clark sites, and travel around the U.S.," he said, adding that Collingswood will always be home base. "But I'd like to remain active in education, find part-time work in some capacity."
But even part-time couldn't replace his experience in Collingswood.
"I'll miss the relationships I've made here. I value the contact I've had with our students; I know their families, I've watched second generations pass through," he said. "I would never, ever change it. My years here have been great, and there are no regrets. If I could go back and do it all again, I would."