Teacher of the Year Thomas McNamee
The Long Beach Unified School District has named Lakewood High School’s Thomas McNamee as Teacher of the Year.
McNamee, an Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles teacher for Lakewood’s Applied Technology Magnet (ATM) pathway, has been a part of LBUSD for nearly 30 years as a student, coach and teacher.
His journey began — and still remains — as a Lakewood Lancer. As a senior student, he served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and captain of the tennis team. Within months of graduating, he returned as the school’s junior varsity tennis coach.
As LBUSD’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, McNamee is recognized for more than 17 years of service as an educator at Lakewood and his many contributions that continue to extend beyond his classroom.
He serves as chair of Lakewood’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) department, coach of the boys and girls tennis team, and member of the school’s Instructional Leadership Team. His leadership experience also includes serving as Lakewood’s technology coordinator and trainer, Canvas/virtual learning trainer, ATM pathway lead, and LBUSD’s myPD Development team member.
“My greatest accomplishments have been the ways I have navigated the world of education,” McNamee shared. “Developing, guiding and supporting programs, training and supporting peers, championing the infusion of career readiness through a wide range of experiences, and expanding technology use to all students.”
“I continue to search for new ways to provide both students and teachers opportunities to reach their full potential,” he said.
Over the years, his teaching philosophy has followed the gradual changes that have come with students, technologies and the way information is accessed. He believes the lessons that define him as a teacher are lessons that allow student choice. McNamee shares that these lessons are the teachings that force students into new ways of thinking, situations that require research, careful consideration and in-depth analysis for tackling real-world problems and situations.
“My greatest contributions to education have been my ability to connect the daily teachings of school to the real world. Opening students’ eyes to the expectations that await them. That it’s not about how many points they get on an assignment, but the process, completion, reflection and way in which the assignment emulates them,” McNamee said.
Lisa Busch, AP Psychology and History teacher at Lakewood High School, describes McNamee as Lakewood’s “Renaissance man.” Busch shares his above-and-beyond efforts as an educator have resulted in positive experiences for all Lancer students and staff.
McNamee notably organized Lakewood’s first annual Career Day for all 2,700 students, where he sought out and organized 45 guest speakers from a wide range of careers, resulting in an event that allowed students to explore over 50 booths representing local businesses, colleges and community representatives.
In recalling the success of the event, McNamee described an emotional and rewarding result as he received an outpouring number of personal thank yous and positive comments from students and teachers.
“These [school-wide events] are the moments that define a school. It’s what can bring students together and inspire them to do more and be better.” McNamee shared. “I’ve spoken with many teachers who have various other event ideas. I truly hope that I was able to break through the wall and inspire those teachers to roll up their sleeves because good school culture cannot be contained within the classroom.”
McNamee is thinking about how he can prepare students for a changing world.
Within the next decade, he believes the world and education will look different. Therefore, he shares that his most important job is to instill character, confidence and creativity in all his students so that they make the world a better place.
“I hope what makes me an outstanding teacher are the things that my students get out of projects,” he said. “They learn to commit to doing their best work — to be proud of the outcome, not the points earned. They learn not to be afraid to be vulnerable, learn new things or go through productive struggle.”
“Too often students assume they should already know how to do something, or that it should be easy to learn. This mindset has to be changed because things will change when they get into their careers. Students need to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” McNamee said.
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