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Tom Steenson on Classroom Tone and Culture

What, you might ask, does cheese have to do with education? The answer is not that you may find holes in both, but rather that both require attention to the local culture to be made whole.

This week on HeightsCast, Mr. Tom Steenson shares his thoughts on the tone and culture of the classroom. Leaning on nearly twenty-five years of teaching experience, Tom encourages us as teachers to see our classrooms as second homes and our role as assisting their primary families. There are, of course, important differences between being a parent and being a teacher, yet the overlap between the two vocations is striking and worth pondering.

Listen to Mr. Steenson’s ideas on how to shape the tone and culture of the classroom to be a place where students know they’re loved, love to learn, and therefore learn to know and love all the more.


  • 2:15 Chesterton and cheese
  • 5:07 Like father, like teacher
  • 9:35 How teaching is an art
  • 11:50 What is “tone”?
  • 15:05 Externals that affect the tone
  • 18:10 Classrooms as expressing the teacher’s personality
  • 19:15 Differences between being a parent and a teacher
  • 23:13 Overcoming first judgments
  • 25:45 A key aspect of being an effective teacher
  • 32:50 Recommended reading for teachers
  • 35:15 On posters

Also from the Forum

School Tone, the Most Powerful Teacher with Alvaro de Vicente

Discipline in the Classroom: On the Art of Order with Colin Gleason

Artwork in Schools: On the Buildings that Build Us with Joe Cardenas

Creating a Culture of Learning in the Home by Alvaro de Vicente

John Paul II’s “Culture-First” Approach: The Pope-Saint’s Lessons for Parents, Teachers, and Leaders with George Weigel

Ways to Foster a Family Culture by Alvaro de Vicente

About the Guest

Tom Steenson

Fifth Grade Homeroom, History of Western Thought
Tom Steenson teaches fifth grade and the History of Western Thought.  He arrived at The Heights in 2001, having earned a B.A. in 1996 at Thomas Aquinas College, where he developed a love of ancient Mathematics, Philosophy, and Theology.  He moved to the D.C. area to study philosophy at The Catholic University of America, where he obtained an M.A.,...
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