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June 24, 2021 | Abby Liu
On June 30, 2021, Tom Postema will retire. Abby Hall Choi will succeed him as the fourth head of school in the school’s 40+ year history.
It’s time to bid farewell and happy retirement to Head of School Tom Postema. For ten years, he’s led Mustard Seed School and been a champion for students and teachers. We celebrate his many contributions and the gift that he is to the community.
Here’s a quick look at his 38+ year career as an educator and administrator. Mr. Postema’s first teaching job was at Columbia University, where he taught philosophy to college freshmen, surveying the scope of thinking from early Greek philosophers to modern times. He took that philosophical perspective with him when he became a math teacher at Eastern Christian High School. The marriage of math and philosophy enabled him to show students the beauty, mystery, and wonder in math, even as they learned essential skills. Then he taught middle school students in a small school in Hoboken…Mustard Seed School…before taking the Mustard Seed model to a school in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 1986, he and Michele, and their three children, Antje, Erica, and Chris, ventured to the Christian Academy in Japan. There Mr. Postema was a math teacher and administrator for 18 years before they moved on to Gyeonggi Suwon International School in Korea for three more years serving in the same capacity.
The Postemas maintained that there was only one school that would draw them back to the United States. According to Mr. Postema,
In 1989 when we were considering where our children would be going to school when we came back to the US on furlough, we knew that Mustard Seed was the only place for them. It was because of the inclusivity of the mission and the recognition that each child is a child of God. The mission brought us back to the United States the first time. And when we again were teaching in Asia into the 1990s and 2000s and people would ask us, “Is there any school that would bring you back to the States?”
Without hesitancy, we would say Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, NJ. It’s the mission that kept bringing us back. It gives us both a description of who we are and who we want to be. The mission and the teachers’ outworking of that mission made our children who they are. My early experiences at the school shaped how I teach and lead. Whole child education deeply rooted in faith resonates with who I am as a person and as a teacher.
When the call came for him to serve as head of school in 2011, it was a dream come true. Since then, Mr. Postema has whole-heartedly served the school community. He’s been a tireless fundraiser, ensuring that a Mustard Seed education is available to students of all backgrounds. Inspiring minds. Cultivating hearts. Removing barriers.
During his tenure, Mr. Postema has raised millions of dollars to benefit students, including $3 million for the Together for Tomorrow campaign. He led the school through a successful accreditation process. Oversaw the completion of one strategic plan and a solid start to another. And successfully guided the school as it remained safely open through the challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Above all, though, he is most proud of the team that he has built, one of incredibly talented teachers and administrators.
To the faculty and staff, he says, “Keep the mission in mind as you teach. Learn from your students and from each other. End each day with a prayer of gratitude for what you have been able to do that day. You are in the presence of brilliance. The students you have will do great things, if fact they already have. Find joy in your students. Laugh with them. “
And he wants students to keep in mind that they are teachers of their peers but also of their teachers. In a learning community, everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher.
Mr. and Ms. Postema will move to Mr. Postema’s hometown of Ann Arbor, MI, in July. They look forward to being closer to their family, including Mr. Postema’s parents, daughter Erica and her husband, Tim, and their children. The Postemas have always loved to travel and plan to visit the West Coast in October to visit family and friends. They hope to rebook a trip to Barcelona that they had to cancel during Covid. And Mr. Postema will look for other travel deals, especially now that they can travel in the off season!
Although he will miss the school community, Mr. Postema will carry his deep love of Mustard Seed School with him. He will continue to support the mission of the school from afar. And he knows that this isn’t a goodbye forever; just a goodbye for now. He believes that the ties are not cut, instead the bands of connection are stretched over the miles and years.
Thank you, Mr. Postema!
Students on the third floor surprised Mr. Postema with a “walk of fame.” They made goodbye signs and cheered him on as he walked by.