Teacher, Coach, Principal: 45 Years of Excellence as an Educator

By Dan Chisholm '03
It is nearing the end of CM’s third quarter. Mr. Thomas Beatty ’68 pushes open the door to room 15 with a determined look on his face. He arranges a textbook and a stack of notes on the front table and begins chatting with the students already in the room. With some students, he answers a math question, but with others he chats about what is on the students’ minds – spring sports, the Red Sox, the AP exam. Then, the bell sounds.
 
“All right, all set?” he asks the class.
 
And he’s off, like the track star he once was.
 
The class begins with a review of a test Mr. Beatty returns. He asks which problems the class wants to review. After a student requests to review the second problem, he copies the question onto the board.
 
“Ok. You’re going to have to break this down into two parts,” says Mr. Beatty.
 
Over the course of four decades, he has taught thousands of students. When former students discuss his teaching ability, the most common sentiment is that he makes even the most complex mathematical concepts seem simple. Before returning to the problem, a student raises his hand.
 
“Why did you put this one on the test?” the student asks.
 
“Why not?” Mr. Beatty replies.
 
“It’s difficult,” the student says sarcastically.
 
“I know you want a challenge.”
 
Therein lies the next most common description of his teaching style. He has high expectations for his students – he challenges them, but he also inspires them to overcome the challenge. He is there to offer help outside class whether it is before school, after school, or during lunch. Whenever a student asks for help, Mr. Beatty stops what he is doing to offer it.
 
As the class continues to work through the problem, Mr. Beatty calls on a student to help the class take the next step. After a short pause, the student loses confidence and suggests someone else should take over.
 
“You can do it,” Mr. Beatty encourages him.
 
And with a hint here and there, the student does. The class continues working through problems, and he continues encouraging students to be confident. Along the way, he offers minor admonitions such as, “Let’s speak mathematically.”
 
Mr. Beatty constantly stops to check for understanding after every step of every problem with a simple, “Good?”
 
The students sometimes nod in affirmation and other times hands go up. However, their responses are unnecessary. As soon as the question leaves his mouth, Mr. Beatty scans the classroom with a keen awareness. He knows the moments when everyone understands and pushes forward. He also knows just by the looks on their faces when they have questions and he stops to reiterate a point.
 
Throughout the class, his primary concern is that students develop a firm understanding of the mathematical concepts. Since this is an AP Calculus course, Mr. Beatty is also preparing them for the upcoming exam.
 
After completing a problem and finding the whole class ready to move on, Mr. Beatty asks, “Now what if they asked the question this way?”
 
Mr. Beatty’s question is interrupted by a cell phone ringing.
 
“Anything important?” asks Mr. Beatty, displaying the dry wit for which he is known.
 
He then deftly transitions back to the math concept at hand. The students are relaxed and enjoy moments of laughter. However, they are all clear on the primary purpose – to leave this course prepared for their next level of math with a thorough understanding of calculus.
 
The bell rings to end the period. If not for that, they might have sat there all day working through calculus problems and exchanging occasional banter. Despite the class’ end, no one rushes toward the door. Neither does Mr. Beatty. While other matters might call, he lingers, chatting with students.
 
Mr. Beatty has been a math teacher for 45 years. The nuisance of a student’s cell phone ring is relatively new. Over his career as a teacher, he has always pushed himself to improve and has honed his craft as a math instructor by reflecting on his own practice and observing his colleagues. His class is held in CM’s new Math Lab. Flexible furniture has
replaced rows of desks and Smart Boards have replaced chalk ones, but Mr. Beatty’s focus on developing a rapport with his students hasn’t changed a bit.
 
“To me, it’s all about the relationships,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
To someone who doesn’t know him, Mr. Beatty might seem reserved. But to his students, he is a mentor, one who inspires by example, but more importantly, through conversations before or after school or following a track meet.
 
Mr. Beatty knows the power of inspirational teachers. He learned that lesson himself on Baker Street.
 
WALKING UP THE STEPS OF DONAHUE HALL
 
Mr. Beatty vividly recalls the moment when he decided to attend CM. During his days at Holy Name Parish School, a Catholic elementary school in West Roxbury, he often thought about following some of the older kids in his neighborhood to CM. He knew some CM students, including Ron Coyne ’65, Rick Dunn ’63, and Jim O’Brien ’65, who he watched play basketball at West Roxbury’s Hynes Field.
 
However, it was in March of 1964 when he decided for sure he wanted to be a CM Knight. The CM varsity basketball team, led by Ron Teixeira ’65, earned a spot in the championship of the Tech Tournament. The squad, under the direction of legendary coach Ron Perry, went undefeated. The championship game was set to be broadcast on the radio.
 
As he listened to the game on the radio, the excitement and energy of the broadcast convinced him CM was the place for him.
 
“I don’t know how I even got the station. I was in bed. It was late. I knew my mother didn’t want me up so I had the earphone in. I can still remember it. They went into overtime and
they lost the game. But it was something that just sparked something in me, and I said that’s where I’m going,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
In September 1964, he walked from the 36 bus stop at the corner of Spring and Gardner streets and up the stairs into Donahue Hall with the other freshmen. It was only his second
time on campus. Some of the students he knew from his days at Holy Name. But, now he was walking among kids from all over the city of Boston.
 
Starting high school, he felt the same anxiety teenagers typically do. However, the faculty quickly quelled any uncertainty he had.
 
“I can still remember getting off the bus and it was so many kids – from everywhere. Freshman year we were all over in Donahue Hall. It was just a special feeling. All the teachers were fantastic. Teachers like Jim O’Connor and Ron Perry, and Br. Feerick, one of the founders,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
Mr. Beatty was fortunate to have excellent teachers who provided an excellent education and inspired his interest in math and history. However, it was the personal connections and the conversations that transcended subject matter that had the most important impact. Whether it was Mr. O’Connor encouraging his uncertain freshman to attend a dance or Br. William Murphy taking a group of students to play with kids at the Home for Little Wanderers, Mr. Beatty developed confidence and learned the importance of giving back.
 
Reflecting on the CM faculty, Mr. Beatty said, “They educated me, they guided me, they mentored me, and they listened to me like no one else had ever done before.” The impact of his teachers is something that would motivate him for the rest of his life, but he didn’t know it at the time.
 
It wasn’t only in the classroom where his teachers inspired him. On one of his first days, he heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that freshman cross country would practice after school. He hadn’t planned on running cross country, but that didn’t stop him from attending the first day of practice. He didn’t have a change of clothes so he ran in his khakis and loafers.
 
“I didn’t even know why I went. I didn’t even know what cross country was. The first time I went out they had us run a mile and a half. It was so much fun. I came back the next day and every day after that for four years,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
The fall of 1964 sparked an interest in and passion for track that would continue through every season for his four years. While he always enjoyed track and found success with it, a coach changed the trajectory of his life. In 1967, Mr. Thomas Meagher joined the CM faculty as a member of the history department and the head indoor and outdoor track coach.
 
“I only had one year to work with Tom. I recognized instantly that he had tremendous potential,” said Mr. Meagher.
 
While Mr. Beatty enjoyed a strong senior season, Mr. Meagher wished he had more time with him. He saw something in the senior runner.
 
“I happened to know the head track coach at Boston University. I said to him, ‘This kid’s got talent. He is going to be really good. I know you can make him into a great runner,’” said Mr. Meagher.
 
Mr. Meagher’s recommendation worked. Mr. Beatty was offered a scholarship to Boston University. He enjoyed a stellar track career and still holds BU’s record in the 1,000-yard run.
 
At BU, Mr. Beatty decided to major in math; it was difficult for him to choose between math and history; his two favorite subjects. While at BU, Mr. Beatty was uncertain of his future career. Given his math major, a role in banking was a possibility. However, a conversation in Franklin Park changed that.
 
AN UNEXPECTED OPENING
 
After graduating from BU, Mr. Beatty began coaching cross country at Archbishop Williams High School. Archbishop Willams had a meet scheduled versus CM in early October 1974.
 
Mr. Catano, a friend of Mr. Beatty’s since high school, had joined CM’s English Department two years earlier and was an assistant cross country coach. At the meet, he and Br. Garrett McGibney, the head coach, told Mr. Beatty that a math position had opened unexpectedly and asked if he was interested. After Mr. Beatty indicated he was, Br. McGibney told him to come to CM the next day for an interview.
 
The next day, Mr. Beatty entered Vice Principal Mr. Christopher Jackson’s office. The conversation went well, but Mr. Jackson wanted to see a little more. He handed Mr. Beatty an algebra book and asked him to return the next day to teach the five classes that he would inherit if hired. After working tirelessly to prepare, Mr. Beatty returned and entered the classroom as a teacher for the very first time.
 
“In the back of each room, the person who was covering the class sat and observed. So I had the principal, the vice principal, the science department chair, the math chair, and the religion department chair,” said Mr. Beatty, recalling the interview as if it were yesterday.
 
“I thought it went ok, but I didn’t have anything to base it on.”
 
At the end of the day, Mr. Jackson told Mr. Beatty to return on Monday and he would have a homeroom in Donahue Hall.
 
“I found out later that they actually took a poll of the classes. [Mr. Jackson] said, ‘The kids really liked you and the teachers liked you, so let’s start on Monday.’”
 
This initial popularity would only grow throughout the years. After being hired, CM was the only place Mr. Beatty would ever work.
 
“It was almost destined to happen. What is better for a CM grad than to come back to a place he loves?” said Mr. Catano P’01, CM’s longtime English Department Chair.
 
A YOUNG TEACHER
 
The next Monday, Mr. Beatty made the short drive from his home in West Roxbury to Baker Street. For the next four decades, this would become his daily routine.
 
“It was really weird; I just couldn’t believe it. I knew all the rooms, and I knew where I sat in all the rooms, and it really wasn’t that long ago that I was there.”
 
Despite the unique circumstances that led to his hiring, Mr. Beatty quickly felt at ease in the classroom.
 
“Tom adapted to the [challenge] quickly. He knew the school and he was ready,” said Mr. Catano.
 
As Mr. Beatty began his career as a CM teacher, he tried to do what Mr. O’Connor, Mr. Perry, Br. Murphy, and Mr. Meagher had done for him.
 
“When I first began teaching, I devised my own mission statement even though I didn’t formalize it at the time. I wanted every student I taught at CM to leave CM with the same sense of fulfillment, enjoyment, and belonging that filled me when I graduated. I still think that’s a pretty good way to approach every day, said Mr. Beatty.
 
Even though he now stood at the front of the room rather than sitting at one of the desks, he still had some learning to do. He didn’t have prior teaching experience, so he had to learn to plan, manage a classroom, and assess his students on the job. Luckily, he could count on the advice of two colleagues and mentors: Mr. Joseph Perfetti and Br. Robert Durning.
 
“I liked teaching right away, because it was new and different. The kids were great, but they kept you on your toes. The two [colleagues] who helped me greatly were Joe Perfetti and Br. Durning,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
Mr. Perfetti’s counsel and guidance extended beyond how to teach algebra and geometry effectively to freshmen and sophomores.
 
“He had a competent mastery of the subject matter coupled with a caring teaching style. He highly motivated his students to develop an appreciation for mathematics,” said Mr. Perfetti.
 
His calm demeanor and friendliness made him friends among his colleagues. His near sprint down the hallways earned him the affectionate nickname “Speedy Beatty” among the students. His quick pace was just a manifestation of his determination; striving for excellence, there was no time to waste.
 
Setting lofty goals and continuously setting new personal goals would define his career. After several years of teaching, Mr. Beatty decided to enter a graduate program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. There he was met with one of the biggest challenges of his life.
 
The program held classes on Tuesday evenings from 4 pm until 8:30 pm. After teaching five classes, Mr. Beatty would make the hourlong drive to Worcester for class. This was his Tuesday routine for four years.
 
Luckily, he had Mr. Perfetti.
 
“[At WPI], they would give you homework– serious homework and a lot of the grade was based on homework. So pretty much every Friday, I would go to Joe Perfetti’s, bring a pizza, and we’d go over all the math,” recalled Mr. Beatty.
 
“These were high level math classes. He was dealing with complex theoretical math and he did very well,” said Mr. Perfetti.
 
His high expectations for himself and his determination helped him to quickly develop into one of CM’s most popular teachers. Throughout his career, he pushed himself to be better and to continue to grow.
 
EPITOME OF A TEACHER AND COACH
 
With the guidance and friendship of colleagues and his work ethic, Mr. Beatty developed into one of CM’s iconic teachers. He devoted himself to helping each student succeed.
 
“He’s a big believer in no man left behind. So even if one person in class is struggling with a topic and we need to move on to stay on course for the AP exam, he’ll stay after school or offer morning sessions to make sure every person understands the concept,” said Matt Freitas, who graduated this spring and was a part of Mr. Beatty’s last class.
 
Mr. Beatty didn’t just want his students to understand the material – he wanted to make them interested in it, and he took great care in crafting lessons to weave together math and topics of interest to students.
 
“He was funny, engaging, and topical; it wasn’t like he was out of touch with what we were into. He could use whatever was going on. He could use athletics or music. He could make references and tie it into math to make it accessible and interesting,” said Mr. Eric Levie ’90 now a teacher himself at Bishop Stang in Fall River.
 
Math was only the beginning of the education in his classroom. When thinking back to their time in his class, alumni describe him as caring, sensitive, and genuine. They found great inspiration in their connections with him.
 
“Every morning, he’d come around to see if we did our homework, but I think that was really just a chance for him to check in with each student to see how they were doing more than how they did on their homework. I always looked forward to that part,” said Mr. Donovan Henry ’12.
 
Just like the teachers he had at CM, the education he offered his students transcended subject matter.
 
“He was available. He developed a level of trust. You felt he was someone you could ask for advice. He was non-judgmental, and he would always steer you back to what you knew to be the right thing,” said Mr. Levie.
 
Joining longtime friend and colleague Mr. Catano as a cross country and track coach, Mr. Beatty became the epitome of a great teacher and coach.
 
“Education isn’t just in the classroom. It’s all over. It is every moment. Whether it is in the classroom, on the track, or in the hallway. He can connect with kids,” said Mr. Connor Muldoon ’12 who had Mr. Beatty as both a teacher and coach.
 
His high expectations were not only reserved for math. Cross country and track runners knew Mr. Beatty would push them to improve. Much like he did with calculus problems, he would break their performance down step by step and challenge them with workouts, which the athletes might have dreaded in the moment, but appreciated when they found success.
 
“He wanted everyone to succeed. I was a decent runner, but he took the time to let me know what I could do better to excel. Before every race, he would review what my splits should be to set a new personal record,” said Mr. Muldoon.
 
“I always looked to him for feedback. Based off his demeanor and his approach to the sport, I realized he had valuable insight I wanted to get. After races, I’d always chat with him to see if he had feedback because I knew it would make me better,” said Mr. Henry.
 
GIVING BACK TO A PLACE HE LOVES
 
Mr. Beatty continued his career teaching five math courses and coaching three seasons of track until 2015. He was perfectly content to continue in this role. However, in the spring of 2015, CM President Dr. Peter Folan asked Mr. Beatty to join the principal search committee. As the committee discussed the position and CM, Dr. Folan and the other committee members recognized that the best candidate was sitting at the table.
 
“I told them ‘no’ five times,” said Mr. Beatty, recalling the moment when Dr. Folan and the rest of the committee asked him if he would take the position.
 
Following this meeting, Mr. Beatty sought the counsel of three people: his wife Anne and longtime colleagues Mr. Catano and Ms. Mary Concannon.
 
After Mr. Catano and Ms. Concannon agreed that he was the best person for the job and with the blessing of his wife, he accepted the new role.
 
“I think the job found him. He wasn’t searching for the job. He didn’t have to take it on. Instead, he took on a big job during a time of transition. He was the right man to be at the helm at the time,” said Ms. Concannon.
 
Taking on this new role, he had the opportunity to extend his personal mission statement to the entire student body.
 
“Sometimes you’re intimidated by the principal as that far-off person that you don’t see that much. He’s always out there in the cafeteria and hallways. Being a teacher, it added this sense of transparency you don’t get with a traditional principal,” said Mr. Matt McCarthy ’16.
 
As Principal, Mr. Beatty shared not only his high expectations, but his skills as a writer and speaker. And he has shared many talents some of which were hidden even from longtime colleagues and friends.
 
“As some people become older, they get stale. That is not the case with Tom. He has expanded his repertoire of skills and talents that he is willing to share with the community,” said Ms. Ellen Eberly P’99 ’05, a longtime faculty member.
 
Mr. Beatty has shared his acting skills through a cameo in this spring’s musical, Oliver!. Through his weekly newsletter and addresses to the student body, he displayed his thoughtfulness, scholarship, and love of CM with the entire school.
 
A LIFELONG LEARNER
 
It is March during his fourth and final year as principal. In the Ronald S. Perry Gymnasium, 44 juniors and seniors hold candles and recite the National Honor Society (NHS) pledge in front of parents and guests as part of the induction ceremony for the Monsignor Donahue Chapter of the NHS. It is a rite of passage and a tradition that has carried on at Baker Street for decades.
 
Then, junior Rory Redmond takes the stage. To the audience, this is expected. Rory is a talented musician and a frequent performer at CM events.
 
But this is where the night’s program takes an unexpected turn.
 
“Tonight, I thought I would do something different,” Rory begins.
 
“As you know, our Principal, Mr. Beatty, is retiring at the end of the year. I know he likes James Taylor, so I’d like to sing a James Taylor song tonight. And… I’d like to invite Mr. Beatty up to sing with me,” announces Rory.
 
At that moment, hundreds of heads turn awaiting Mr. Beatty’s response. They don’t have to wait long for a response. Mr. Beatty rises and walks quickly to the podium while donning his academic robe.
 
The collective faces of the audience reveal one question on everyone’s mind: Can he sing?
 
As Rory strums the guitar, Mr. Beatty belts out, “In my mind I’m gone to Carolina. Can’t you just see the sunshine?”
 
Question answered.
 
As Rory and Mr. Beatty sing the verses, heads start nodding, hands start clapping, and feet start tapping. When the final note is played, Mr. Beatty and Rory hug and, then he gives a simple nod to the audience and walks back to his seat among the faculty.
 
The students cheer, “Beatty. Beatty. Beatty.”
 
Reflecting on both his tenure as Principal and singing in front of the school community, Mr. Beatty said, “I tell the kids. You need to step outside your comfort zone.”
 
Beginning as a student and continuing through his tenure as principal, Mr. Beatty has made an indelible mark on CM. He has broken CM records, was inducted into the CM Athletic Hall of Fame, became CM’s first alumni Principal, was honored with a Vince in Bono Malum Award, and taught thousands of students about the subject he loves. More importantly, he has inspired them all to learn and to pursue excellence even if it means stepping out of their comfort zones.
 
“Mr. Beatty has dedicated his life to serving the young men of Catholic Memorial. His impact on the lives of two generations is immeasurable. As a teacher, he built strong relationships and inspired growth in his students. As a coach, he dedicated his time and energy to motivating his athletes to achieve their potential,” said Dr. Folan.
 
Mr. Beatty’s commitment and dedication are admired by his colleagues.
 
“He has held every role here. His legacy is held by the alumni. The way they respect him and seek him out at events is evidence of the impact he’s had,” said Mr. Catano.
 
“As an alumnus, teacher, coach, and principal, Tom has maintained an unwavering bond to CM. His commitment and love of the school is evident. Most teachers at his age would be considering retirement. But he accepted the role of principal with the many tasks and long hours involved,” said Mr. Perfetti.
 
Reflecting on his tenure at CM, he is grateful and unassuming. Not surprisingly, he focuses on that role in the classroom and turns the spotlight on his students.
 
“Honestly, the bottom line is I just loved it. It was fun. You get in front of a bunch of kids and you can feel the camaraderie among them and it’s just so much fun. I always think of what the brothers and teachers did for me and I want to impart that, so students leave with the same feeling for the place I have,” said Mr. Beatty.
 
And thanks to that chance encounter in Franklin Park, thousands of students have graduated with that sense of camaraderie and pride in CM.`
 
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Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.

CATHOLIC MEMORIAL SCHOOL

235 Baker Street
West Roxbury, Massachusetts 02132
Phone: 617-469-8000
Fax: 617-325-0888