Scott Thobe, Tappan Middle School social studies teacher

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Scott Thobe (pronounced “Toe-bee”)  and two older sisters grew up in the small Ohio farming community of  Ft. Recovery.  Thobe says that because there wasn’t a lot to do in the area,  hanging out with friends was at a premium.  He was always into sports and loving being around teams, clubs, and social groups. Thobe is from a family of educators, with all members either teaching or working in education in some capacity.

After graduating from high school in 1986, Thobe attended Miami University in Ohio to major in social studies education.  He then moved to North Carolina to work at a camp for at-risk youth for two years, and then spent the next five years in Cincinnati  teaching at-risk high school students at Hope Academy. After earning his master’s degree in special education at the University of Cincinnati in 1998, Thobe moved to Ann Arbor to teach at Northside Elementary for two years before moving on to Tappan to teach seventh grade geography and English.
He and his wife, Lizzie Urmy, live in Ypsilanti with their children Solomon, 12, and Penny. 10.
What inspired you to become a teacher?  As long as I can remember I was interested in the social and cultural aspect of school and being in that atmosphere.  I also wanted to coach, so teaching became an avenue for that as well.  Teaching felt like a very comfortable and exciting fit for me.

In your 21 years with AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?  I think the most important thing that I have learned is that building relationships with kids is crucial to any teaching of any kind.  And every student is different; some need a very gentle approach and some need more prodding.  The important part is that the young person feels that you care and that you want them to learn and succeed.


How do you keep students engaged?  I really try to make the history fun;  engaging activities always help the kids get excited—in an eighth-grader excitement way!

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?  Seeing the students really enjoy learning something that is history-related.

Can we talk about your patriotic garb on Constitution Day?  Absolutely.  It has morphed over time; I always have my eye out for “U.S.A.” garb when I’m out at garage sales or flea markets.  It just kind of all came together in the recent years.  What better way to represent Constitution Day?

What has surprised you most about the profession?  I really am surprised how quickly it goes by. I can’t believe I’ve been teaching for this long.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?  It really will get easier.  Also, trust the process and be yourself.  

Favorite websites: and an embarrassing amount of sports-related websites.

Finish this sentence: I wish I had gone into any other field but teaching when …  I’m riding the overnight bus back from the Washington D.C. trip. Not fun moments. Or smells.

What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?  I probably would have told myself to not sweat the small stuff.  Certainly easier said than done.

What’s with the pair of dodgeball trophies in your classroom window sill?   Long story short: My advisory class was in the championship game of the dodgeball tourney last year and we lost a highly-contested game.  I found two trophies and made those for my advisory class as a joke.  I made one of them a sportsmanship trophy.

What was always written on your report card in grade school?  I felt like I was always a good student. I remember my handwriting was recognized as being especially “neat” in those days.

What were you like in middle school?  I probably thought I was really cool. But the reality was probably very different.

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?  We really do want what is best for your child.  I enjoy the work I do and feel like my work is generally acknowledged by my students and parents.

Some teachers find middle schoolers a particularly challenging age. What do you think? I think that most teachers find their own comfort level and niche when it comes to age groups to teach.  Yes, eighth graders can be snarky and think that they know everything. But give me 30 eighth graders over 20 kindergarteners any day!

How do you recharge?  I love working and hanging out outside; also love to go to baseball games and social activities with my kids and wife.

What’s most exciting about your life right now?  My own two children are coming through middle school right now so that is very exciting for me. I’m married to a wonderful person and enjoy every day of our lives together.


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