By Lauren R.
Mr. Thomas Mattia, a devoted educator in Great Neck for over 65 years, recently passed away at the age of ninety-two. Aside from his many accomplishments as a teacher, he was also a decorated World War II naval officer who fought in the Battle of Okinawa and invaded the Philippines.
He began his teaching career in the Great Neck School District in 1951 at North Middle, moved to South Middle in 1958, then finally to South High in 1967. In 1981 he retired to become a tour guide for historical sites in the US and Soviet Union, but returned to South High in 1990 and became a social studies substitute teacher and guidance counselor. In 2002, he became a social studies teacher in the Study Center and also taught a TESL class.
Mr. Mattia was an esteemed teacher who was loved for his enthusiasm, wisdom, and undeniable ability to help his students in a variety of ways. He lived and breathed social studies. In addition to the time he served during World War II and as a tour director, he was also a US Representative in Cuba for an educational survey. His personal experiences enhanced his ability to convey the true meaning and relevance of social studies to his students.
After Mr. Mattia’s death, the Study Center’s website honored him via a blog post. It is clear through all the kind words of his coworkers and students that he left a lasting impression on many of them. On the Study Center’s online blog, some of Mattia’s students noted that he was “an excellent resource with a lot of experience,” and “the best…such a helpful teacher, amazing.” He was also commended for his compassion: “He reminds me of my grandpa,” one remarked, while another mentioned that he was “the best teacher ever, helpful and kind.” One comment on the blog went as far as to say, “he was the sweetest person I have ever known! God Bless him!”
In 2002, The Southerner featured Mr. Mattia in an article in which he said, “As long as the administration and my health permit it, I plan to stay at Great Neck South as long as possible.” That is exactly what he did.
The Study Center is holding a small memorial service to honor Mr. Mattia after school on May 22 in the courtyard. A plaque in the Study Center and a bench in the courtyard will be dedicated to Mr. Mattia in memory of his contributions to the school.
Even after his death, he remains alive and vibrant in the hearts of his former students and colleagues. Those who were lucky enough to have known and loved Mr. Mattia miss him dearly, but are comforted by the knowledge that he left behind a positive legacy in the Great Neck School District.