In 1976, Tom Bloch joined H&R Block, the world's largest tax services provider, where his father was CEO. In 1981, after introducing automation to the company's office network, he was elected President of the Tax Operations. Later, he oversaw the company's innovative practice of filing tax returns electronically to the IRS, which revolutionized the industry. Bloch was promoted to President of the corporation in 1989 and CEO in 1992. His second career began in 1995 as a middle school math teacher at St. Francis Xavier, an inner city parochial school. Five years later, he co-founded the University Academy, a public charter school in Kansas City. Bloch continues to teach 7th and 8th grade math at the urban college prep school he helped design and launch. He is also President of the school's board. The Academy has grown from 200 students in grades seven through nine in its first year to over 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The school moved into a new, $40 million facility in 2005, and it became the first school in Missouri to receive a ten-year extension of its charter. Over the last five years, all but two graduates of the Academy have gone on to attend college, an almost unheard-of success rate for an urban school. Bloch is the author of Stand for the Best, a memoir about his journey from CEO to inner city teacher and school founder. He graduated cum laude in 1976 from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Tom Bloch: First of all, it surprised the heck out of me when I made this decision to step down to pursue what I thought was maybe a higher calling, it was viewed as such a novel thing. When I appeared on Oprah and a story in People Magazine and written up in the New York Times, because of a novelty of a CEO who would willingly give it all up to become just a teacher as we too often seem to think of the profession in this country is an unfortunate thing. But I really do believe that a teacher can have a wonderfully satisfying career, and every bit as satisfying as that of a CEO. Financially, no. I think my first year as a teacher, I was part-time because I was working on my teaching certificate. I made, for the school year, for the whole school year, as much as I made in about one week as a CEO. Now, I had to remind myself, I didn’t change careers for the money, but in other ways it is a very rewarding profession.
We have a lot of people who’ve achieved great, personal wealth in this country in their business, and I think this would be a fantastic way to give back. We’re talking about people who are highly qualified, intelligent, and probably could be just enormously successful in a classroom setting. And so I can tell you over the last 13 years, I’ve met a lot of people in business, very successful business people, who have confided in me and said, “I would love to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”
And I go, “Well, why don’t you?”
And they say, “Oh teachers don’t make much money,” or, “The status is just not a very glamour… it’s just not for me.”
But I think what they would find is that there is a great potential fulfillment that can be achieved by being a teacher.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008