Cancer claims beloved teacher
August 27, 2008 · Updated 4:20 PM
ARLINGTON A kindergarten teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, Tom Ingalls died Thursday, April 3, at age 54, after a long, challenging struggle against thyroid cancer.##M[more]##
The schools Parent Teacher Student Association hosted a spaghetti feed fundraiser for Ingalls soon after his cancer was diagnosed, in October 2006. The fundraiser provided an opportunity to honor the man who switched in mid-life from a career in the corporate world to teaching small children. His job as a data systems programmer for a telephone company was eliminated in downsizing when he was not quite 40 years old and then he switched to teaching kindergarten.
He taught in Arlington for more than 15 years, at Kent Prairie and Eagle Creek elementary schools, before the new Pioneer Elementary School opened five years ago.
Ive known Tom for five years, said the principal at Pioneer, Karl Olson.
Tom was a very important part of the family here, he said. He cared so much about the kids and their families.
Olson added that Ingalls cared a lot about the outdoors, also.
He did a lot activities with the kids in the wetlands around the new school, Olson added.
In 2006, Ingalls was one of seven Arlington teachers nominated for Disneys Teacher of the Year Award. He was very active in many school district committees. He was on the ACE Committee as well as the committee to select art for the new high school.
His walls are covered with art and cards from his students, Jodi said.
I think the radiation broke him down, his wife told The Arlington Times after he passed. She said that he went back to teaching school last September after completing all his treatments, but quit in December.
Then in January he started going downhill and it all went very quickly, she said.
For the spaghetti feed fundraiser, The Arlington Times reported that Tom said he was inspired to be a teacher by his own fourth-grade teacher named Mrs. Jacoby.
Ingalls had said in his many trips to the principals office, that Mrs. Jacoby encouraged his creativity and self expression.
Ingalls success as a teacher was due to his ability to care, it seems. He worked hard to demonstrate to his kids the importance of treating people nicely.
One of the leaders of the Parent, Teacher, Student Association that planned the spaghetti feed, Nicole Nelson, told The Arlington Times at that time that everyone loved Tom.
He knows the names and personally cares for each of his kids, Nelson said. He gives them high-fives and hugs, Nelson said in 2006.
Tom himself said then that he always tried to set a good example.
I try to encourage the kids to always be nice, because just in case something happens to me, and I dont seem them again, I want them to know they are loved.
Ingalls believed that everyone is a teacher.
My kids have always taught me, just like Ive been teaching my parents since I was a kid, Ingalls said in 2006.
Now his lessons continue, as his family and friends plan to celebrate his life with music, food, laughter and dancing at 3 p.m., April 19, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave. Potluck dishes are welcome.
Itll be just the kind of fun celebration Tom would have loved, said his wife.
Tom passed away at home surrounded by dozens of loving family members and friends.
The family requests instead of flowers please send donations support the Science Garden at Pioneer Elementary School, 8213 Eaglefield Dr., Arlington or to the Whatcom Hospice at 800 E. Chestnut, Bellingham, WA 98225.