Standing near the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemeter, the Netherlands Carillon has one of the best views in the area, overlooking the Potomac River towards Washington, D.C..

Thom Jones

Meet Thom

Retiring to the Friendly Skies

Department store executive, published author, teacher, and most recently, United Airlines ground support. Thom hasn’t just worn many hats; he’s worn many careers! But by far, teaching is the one he loved the most and the one that gave him the abilities needed to take on anything.

People skills? As a teacher, he learned to work with an endless variety of personalities. Adaptability? Teaching showed him how to roll with the punches, jump any hurdles, and change up plans at a moment’s notice. Dependability? Hundreds of students counted on him to show up, on time, every single day. And show up, he did—for 25 years.


First drawn to education as a volunteer mentor to sixth-grade boys in North Carolina, Thom earned his credentials and a master’s degree in education, embarking on his teaching career in 1995. In 1997, he headed to Virginia to marry his sweetheart and begin teaching with FCPS. He started at Sandburg Middle School (MS) with stints at Kathryn Johnson MS, Powell Elementary School (ES), Jackson MS, and Sangster ES before finishing out his career teaching English and creative writing at Hayfield Secondary School in June 2022.

A natural born storyteller with a gift for lyrics, Thom kept things entertaining (and his students engaged) by writing and performing lessons in song. While he enjoyed being in the classroom, the pandemic caused Thom to reassess. He began thinking he’d like to try another industry while he still had some “gas in the tank.” So, 10 days after he left FCPS—true to form, he sang his way out at his retirement ceremony—Thom began a job with United Airlines as part of their ground support crew. He still works with the younger generation, but now they’re his twenty-something coworkers. And they train together as they learn to drive aircraft tugs and pull planes. According to Thom, the biggest adjustments have been getting used to having more than 20 minutes for lunch and being able to take multiple bathroom breaks during the workday.

Collage of Thom Photos

It’s never too soon to familiarize yourself with your pension plan.

Thom Jones

For those who aren’t there yet, Thom likens preparing for retirement to lesson planning. Create the plan now and once you’re ready to unveil it, you’ll have all your t’s crossed and i’s dotted. He says it’s never too soon to familiarize yourself with your pension plan or to contact ERFC and explore their tools and resources. He also recommends chatting with the ERFC Ambassador in your building or becoming one yourself if there isn’t one. He credits his ERFC pension with helping him stay financially comfortable.

Despite his new career, retirement isn’t all work and no play. Thom is staying creative by writing books two and three of the young adult science fiction trilogy he started way back when with book one, Backstep Forward. He and his wife also want to travel. Thanks to his employment at United, dream trips to Spain and Africa aren’t out of reach. In fact, for this retiree, the sky’s the limit.