Grand Secretary Bill Crawford (center, right) presents Tom Casey (center left) with a plaque honoring him as the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s Masonic Teacher of the Year Friday night before IKM-Manning’s homecoming game. Casey’s family stands in the background, and Manual Lodge No. 450 Secretary Ronald Frahm stands off to the right.
Grand Secretary Bill Crawford (center, right) presents Tom Casey (center left) with a plaque honoring him as the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s Masonic Teacher of the Year Friday night before IKM-Manning’s homecoming game. Casey’s family stands in the background, and Manual Lodge No. 450 Secretary Ronald Frahm stands off to the right.
October 7, 2013



Described as a "rock" in the district, a "good person first and a successful coach," IKM-Manning industrial technology teacher and head football coach Tom Casey was recently selected as the Iowa Masonic Teacher of the Year.

A short ceremony was held for Casey Friday evening, prior to the Wolves' homecoming football game.

"He has a legacy of helping young people," said Bill Crawford, grand secretary of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Iowa. Crawford said that the recommendations the Grand Lodge received praised Casey's character and his "ability to touch young people in their formative years in a very positive way."

Casey has been teaching and coaching for 35 years. He began his career at Manilla High School in 1978 as an industrial arts teacher. He also served as an assistant football coach. In 1985 he became the head football coach. Over the years he has also taught physical education and driver's education, and he has coached baseball, basketball and track.

A Massena native, Casey enjoyed his own industrial arts classes in high school.

"I liked working with my hands," he said.

He combined this interest with a passion for teaching and coaching, attending Peru State College in Nebraska. With a brother-in-law teaching in Manilla, Casey said, he was familiar with the district and knew they had developed a good sports program and provided good education.

Casey helped the district transition through two consolidations.

"In each situation, the students just get along great. They enjoyed being together and couldn't have handled it better," he said. "As far as the community goes, it's always tough when you lose something that's been there for a long time. There are always some bumps in the road. It's important to be sure that everyone is well-informed and remember what's best for the students."

Another issue that stands out for Casey from his years in teaching was the initial push for a core curriculum in the mid- to late 1990s, a move he believed to be ill-advised.

"Basically the idea was for students just to go to four-year colleges, so the approach ignored the vocationals," he explained. "It took them four or five years to figure out that really was not a wise thing to do."

In the early 21st century, funding came back to re-establish vocational programs. Casey hopes to continue to develop IKM-Manning's classes.

"All of our kids aren't four-year-college kids, and there is nothing wrong with that," he said.

The classes he teaches currently focus on construction. Students build cabinets, storage sheds and work on drafting with computer-aided-design (CAD) software. He teaches between 50 and 60 students each year, though he said the increasing curriculum requirements makes it difficult for students to fit industrial classes into their schedules. Still, it is not uncommon for students to take skills from his program into engineering classes or the fields of carpentry or mechanics.

"Vocational classes provide hands-on activity, working together as a group or team to build something, going through organized procedures," Casey said. "It also teaches accountability and responsibility, because you're the one behind that project."

The lessons taught in sports are similar, he said. He enjoys coaching track because the one-on-one competitive aspect is different, but football is his favorite.

"All sports teach life lessons," he said. "They're one of the last things we have that challenge kids with what they can do with a good work ethic."

His actions on these sideline contributed to his nomination for the award by the Manual Lodge No. 450 in Manning. Mason Orlan Fara had two grandchildren in the IKM-Manning football program. Even though Fara's grandson was a guard on the offensive line, Casey allowed him to carry the ball for a touchdown during his senior season.

"It was very unusual," Fara said of the incident. For the teacher of the year to come from such a small school is also unusual, he said, adding that the award was "well-deserved."

Humble and down to earth, Casey said that he was surprised at the honor.

"I certainly didn't expect it," he said. "A number of teachers throughout the state are just as deserving as I am, even within our own teaching staff."

Casey was thankful for the nomination and recognition, and for the communities' support of the school system over the years. He also said that he never could have achieved as much without the support of his wife, Diane, a teacher in the Boyer Valley Community School District. The couple raised four children, all of whom attended and graduated from IKM schools. They have become a doctor, a store manager, a banker and a cosmetologist.

Out of the classroom, Casey enjoys working outdoors, buildings projects inside and outside the house, farming, raising a few cows, hunting and fishing when the opportunities arise, watching a good game and reading when time presents itself. He has no plans to stop teaching or coaching anytime soon.

"I enjoy what I'm doing, and as long as I enjoy it, I'll probably stay for awhile," he said.

Denise Nottger, a junior high English teacher in Van Horne, also received an award. Casey received a plaque and the IKM-Manning district received a $1,000 donation form the Grand Lodge, half to be spent by Casey for his classes, and half in collaboration with the school. Administrators said they haven't yet discussed with Casey how to use the funds.

IMK-Manning High School principal Brian Wall said that Casey relates well with students and displays excellent classroom management that extends throughout the building.

"It's very gratifying to see Tom's work recognized and acknowledged," he said. "It's well-deserved."