A Little Respect Goes A Long Way

Tom Harris, CEO of HMB, Inc.

When Tom Harris, CEO of HMB Inc., was asked if he had a teacher who had inspired him, he quickly answered, “I’ll never forget my high school teacher, Al Simpson. I don’t even remember what subject he taught, but I do remember that I learned a lot about life and myself.”

Mr. Simpson was, in fact, a history teacher at Northland High School; although, he admits that his goal was to teach much more than history. “My philosophy was to teach the whole kid, and luckily teaching history gave me the opportunity to do that,” commented Simpson. “I wanted to teach them about life. In order to do that, I had to find out what motivated and encouraged each student. I had to get to know them.” 

Harris remembers that Simpson really listened and respected his students, and encouraged them to do the same for one another. “Mr. Simpson wanted to know why we thought certain things, and would challenge us to think more broadly. One of the greatest gifts he gave me was the ability to listen to other people’s opinions,” said Harris. 

Simpson explained the reason for his individualized approach, “I learned early in my career that one size does not fit all—each student is different, and that in order to be successful, your kids had to respect you.” Harris remembers the impact of the individual attention he and his classmates received. “We were a bunch of 17 and 18 year old kids, and we looked forward to his class each day because we felt respected,” Harris commented.

Harris credits Simpson for giving him some of the skills it takes to successfully lead HMB. “Mr. Simpson taught me that there are multiple solutions to each problem and that I can determine the best approach by talking less and listening more. I also learned that a little respect will go a long way.” 

Years later, Simpson’s students still hold onto the lessons learned in his class. “I keep in touch with my classmates from high school, and we still talk about Simpson’s class and how much we enjoyed it,” comments Harris. Simpson humbly states, “I had the best job in the world. I really mean that. I was lucky to be a teacher.”