AMLE is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, Dr. Thomas “Tom” O. Erb. Tom passed on November 27 after a brief illness. Tom devoted his career to middle level education, focusing particularly on teacher preparation, curriculum, and interdisciplinary teaming. He was a scholar, professor, author, researcher, and a passionate advocate for the middle school philosophy. After serving as a middle school teacher in the US and abroad early in his career, Tom became a faculty member at the University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, where he taught middle level courses, directed middle grades teacher preparation programs, and served as chair of the department of curriculum and instruction. Tom retired from the university in 2005 and was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus of Teaching and Leadership. After retirement from KU, Tom received two distinguished visiting professorships from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, also where he earned his undergraduate degree.
Tom was instrumental in the formation of the Kansas Association for Middle Level Education (KAMLE), having also founded their journal. In 1993, he received a Kamelot Award for Outstanding Contributions to Middle Level Education and was honored with the association’s establishment of the Thomas O. Erb Award for Excellence in Teaming. Tom worked with teachers in more than 90 school districts in 23 different states, and for six years he ran an institute at KU where he would invite school districts to send teams of teachers and administrators to the university in the summer for a week of learning and planning.
Tom was dedicated to and deeply engaged in the work of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE). As editor of AMLE’s flagship publication, Middle School Journal, from 1994 to 2009, he was the longest to have served in this important role. In 2009, Tom was awarded the John H. Lounsbury Award for Distinguished Service, the highest award given by the Association for Middle Level Education. Throughout his career he authored and co-authored more than 90 publications including several AMLE books. He served as an AMLE Board of Trustees member in the mid-1980s and was a member and chair of many committees, including, most recently, member of the AMLE Foundation Fund.
Tom was a world traveler and adventurer. He and his wife Karen not only raised four children, but traveled, studied, and taught around the world in places such as Germany, England, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Brazil, Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria, Zaire, Malawi, and Kenya.
Tom’s spirit lives on with the many friends he made at AMLE over the years. He will be greatly missed.
The family has suggested that donations be made to the AMLE Foundation Fund in honor of Tom.