Thomas Riddle ll recognized for his dedication to education and family

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October 2, 2023 by Shirley Adams - Views: 82

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Thomas Riddle ll recognized for his dedication to education and family


S652-2.jpgEach academic year, parents hope for that special teacher who will connect with students and spark their interest in learning. One such teacher, Thomas Riddle II, graced Mauldin High School for a time and continues to influence students in our community. Thomas attended the Hollywood premier of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” last June by invitation. Read on to find out why!

Born in Greenville, Thomas traces his family roots back to Laurens County in the 1780’s. His folks on both sides of the family come from Greenville. Thomas grew up in Greenville but spent his high school years in Ware Shoals where his father, also named Tom, pastored a church. Thomas says that as a child, he wanted to excel and was a perfectionist. His mother, Joan, would tell him to just do his best, that the angels in heaven can do no better!

Thomas always enjoyed school and learning. His passion for history began in second grade with a teacher named Cynthia Clawson who sparked his interest in stories of the past. He still remembers how books such as “Young Abraham Lincoln,“ “Young Frederick Douglas,” and Bruce Catton’s “History of the Civil War” captivated him. He eagerly checked out such volumes from the school library and spent hours poring over the pictures and the text. Somewhere along the way, Thomas decided that he wanted to teach history and to coach football which he played in high school. He is thankful for his mother and father who wholeheartedly supported and encouraged him in his dreams and career aspirations.


Thomas Riddle II with his wife
Angela (Angie)

For his college education, Thomas returned to Greenville and attended Furman University. He began as a business major but did not enjoy the mathematics courses as much as those in the humanities. So, he pursued an undergraduate degree in history and then a masters in secondary education administration, both from Furman University. At Furman, during his freshman year, he met Angela, his future wife. Today, they have three grown sons, all of whom reside locally. His family has close ties with Furman. Thomas’s father and his oldest son also graduated from there, and for ten years, Thomas served as an adjunct professor in education at Furman. His experiences at Furman fostered a keen appreciation for liberal arts education and challenged him to see the connections between everything.

Thomas started out as a history teacher and football & wrestling coach in Greenwood. In 1994, he arrived at Mauldin High School where for eight years he taught a variety of history courses in the classroom and coached football as well as track and field. Then, Thomas designed and implemented the Mauldin High School Freshman Academy where he assumed the role of principal for five years. Following this, he worked with the Greenville County School District to develop K-12 curricula for the entire district of 70,000 students as well as to provide training for teachers. Next came a stint at Shannon Forest Christian School. At last, in 2015, Thomas moved to his current position as Assistant Director at the Roper Mountain Science Center.

Throughout his career, Thomas has sought to reach and to motivate students. He has developed core concepts for accomplishing this—use stories, have fun, and create an immersive classroom environment. Thomas explains these concepts in TEDx talks as well as blogs and articles found at

To Thomas, everything is about stories. He says that using powerful stories engages students, involves them emotionally, and makes it easier to learn. As a novice teacher, he already loved stories because his father introduced him to classic heroes, movies, and comic books. And when Star Wars arrived in the theaters, it mesmerized him with its powerful message and setting in outer space. At Mauldin High School, his first courses centered around world history and ancient history; he quickly found ways to incorporate references to Star Wars, and the students loved it.

So, what sparked the invitation to the premiere of the latest Indiana Jones movie? Thomas became intrigued with a television series based on the young Indiana Jones. The series included references to historical events which Thomas incorporated into lesson plans. He wrote a letter to Lucasfilm where he explained what he had done and included a sample lesson plan. This started a collaboration spanning fifteen years. So, Thomas and fellow collaborator Wesley Dodgens were invited with their families to attend the red-carpet event in recognition of their work. You can check some of these ideas at and


Thomas Riddle II with his sons Jon and Ben and
actress Karen Allen who plays Marion taken at
Indiana Jones Premiere

On a trip to Disney World, Thomas suddenly realized how his sons learned while having fun. He wondered what it would be like if they designed schools like theme parks. Thomas then became involved in designing Fisher Middle School from scratch with that idea in mind. He wanted to create an experience that engaged people, a place where students, teachers, and parents wanted to be. He founded a company called Imagineering Education in 2013 and serves as its lead consultant. He also shares with teachers how to design learning spaces and immersive environments in their classrooms. Simple things such as including music from the time frame, arranging the room in a certain way, and displaying relevant artifacts in the classroom can be effective.

As Thomas has moved from classroom teaching to administration and then to Roper Mountain Science Center, he says that he misses that day-to-day interaction with students. He loves inspiring them to think in a new way and enjoys seeing their eyes light up when they grasp a new concept. His liberal arts background from Furman enabled him to make all the key transitions in his career. And Roper Mountain Science Center offers him many opportunities to plan and to guide immersive educational experiences for this upcoming generation.

Thomas says that running de-stresses him. When younger, he participated in one-half marathons and marathons. Last fall, he ran in a one-half marathon and plans to do the same this winter. Thomas also likes to spend time with his family, hike outdoors, watch college football with Angela, and read about history. His favorite books include anything by John Maxwell, “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge, “A New Face on the Countryside” by Timothy Silver, “Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” by Don Hahn, and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Currently, Thomas collaborates with several folks at his church to collect and share stories about Greenville’s past. That interest began when he worked at the district office and would conduct walking tours of downtown Greenville for teachers during the summer.Thomas says that now more than ever people need to become students of history and learn from the past. He adds that so often “we read clickbait as history” when we should investigate more. Authentic research involves exploring artifacts, oral histories, and historical documents as well as seeking out multiple sources of information on the same topic and uncovering the truth. He is concerned about today’s biased media and feels that people need to check things out from various sources, think about the issues themselves, and discover things for themselves in the process.

Thomas’s advice to those who would choose teaching as a profession is to focus on the students. He emphasizes the importance of real-world experience and authentic learning, not just memorization of facts. He says that students must learn critical thinking skills and educators should worry less about the assessments and concentrate on teaching the content. He says that if they do that well, the test scores will fall into place. But he adds that educators must connect with the students, that they are not just numbers on a spreadsheet of test scores. Certainly, Thomas has connected with his students in his thirty-plus years of serving as an educator, and our community has benefitted from his passion for both learning and teaching!

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