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: In my very first class in 1995, I had a student who I had again the following year, so I had her both seventh and eighth grade, and didn’t hear from her again until about 10 years later. I got an e-mail from her, her name was Tina, and Tina in her e-mail invited me to her college graduation, and told me that she had decided to follow in my footsteps. And now, Tina today is an inner city math teacher in the middle school in Kansas City. And so that, to me, is a teacher’s greatest reward.
One other story I would tell you. This is also my first year as a teacher, and it was the last day of school and it was the last hour of the day, so as you can imagine, all eyes were on the clock, waiting for 3:00, so that they would be free for the summer. And I had a girl who raised her hand, right before the bell rang, and she said, “Mr. Bloch, can I come to the front of the room?” And I said, “Yes,” not knowing what she was about to do or say, and she turned and looked at her classmates and she explained how she always hated math, it was her worst subject, and she said, “And then Mr. Bloch came to our school,” and she said, “now, I cannot only get by in math but I really like it.” And she reached into her pocket and she pulled out a little… oh, a 3-inch little ceramic apple that said ‘Greatest Teacher’ on it.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the first one to receive a little $0.75 trinket like that, but I went home that night, being the last day of school, and I told my wife that I got my bonus for the year, and she looked at me as if I were crazy. Now, she was accustomed to me coming home at the end of the tax season with my bonus check at H&R Block, and I explained to her that this little apple meant more to me than those checks I got at H&R Block, some of which had several zeroes on it before the decimal point, and so this is really a teacher’s greatest reward.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008