Math and Motion

Calculus teacher Thomas Gomez shares his journey, insight into career, following passions


Amanda Hare

Paddle in hand, math teacher Thomas Gomez reaches for a high-five after a ping pong match against Christopher “Max” Miller. Gomez, who began playing ping pong at an early age, founded the Prosper High School Ping Pong Club in 2015. The club provides many students with the opportunity to make new friends, develop their skills in the sport and have an after school activity to look forward to each week.

Walking into his AP Calculus classroom, junior Sowmeth Bonda opens the door and is greeted by his smiling teacher, Thomas Gomez.

“September 16,” Gomez said, reciting Bonda’s birthday.

After class, Bonda walks up to Gomez and asks how he remembered his birthday.

“When I look at you, you’re smiling all the time, and I just see home,” Gomez said. “I grew up on 916 East Sanford. That’s why yours is September 16. I just remember it that way.”

For many students who walk past room 1134, it’s another ordinary math class with numbers, formulas, and graphs drawn all over the board. But, to those who enter every day, it is no ordinary classroom. To them, the atmosphere of positivity, safety and learning that Gomez has worked to cultivate over the past 12 years is evident.

Mr. Gomez wants us to succeed, so he pushes us to our fullest potential and supports us in everything we do – in school or out of school.

— Kelly Ringhausen

Much of Gomez’s ability to teach not only math lessons but also life lessons, and connect with students, stems from experiences with family, music and the Marine Corps.

Bonda is not the only student whose birthday Gomez has memorized. When asked how he memorizes each of his students’ birthdays, Gomez proceeds to recite every single state in alphabetical order with rapid speed.

“That’s an association with just music. In my grade school, they would teach a lot of things to memorize to music. That’s why I was able to memorize so much useless stuff, well, not useless,” Gomez said with a laugh. “But, you know what I mean? Through music. If I could hear it melodically, I could remember it. Because, music is my number one passion. It’s just finding something unique and special about that kid that connects with their style.”

Gomez attended Lubbock High School, and at that time, he wanted to be a band director at either the collegiate or professional level, or he wanted to conduct a professional symphony.

Gomez received private lessons free of charge from a Texas Tech oboe instructor, on the condition that he would continue to play the oboe. Later, as a senior in high school, Gomez said he had his “eyes set” on Texas Tech. His private instructor helped him to obtain a scholarship for half the cost of attending the university. Even with the scholarship, and working two jobs with about 80-85 hour weeks, Gomez said he knew that he needed to find something else in the meantime.

Math teacher Thomas Gomez traveled with the band to perform at various events. “We had many smaller groups that were a small part of our entire unit,” Gomez said. “The Entire Band that I was in was called the MCAGCC, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, which was, and still is, in Twentynine Palms, CA. This particular ‘subgroup’ was Jazz Band. We mainly played ‘Big Band’ music, and usually played at Birthday Ball ceremonies or high profile parties, where we were the live music for people to dance.” Gomez is pictured on the far right holding a trumpet. (Photo Courtesy of Thomas Gomez)

“I was trying to work two jobs, so that I could hopefully save money to go to Texas Tech at the end of the following year. It was close to the end of the summer, and I came home late,” Gomez said. “Even though I was graduated, and I didn’t think I needed a curfew, my dad was like, ‘Oh yes you do.’ So, I went to the (Marines) recruiting station, and said, ‘Sign me up.'”

The recruiter at that station told Gomez about the Marines’ band. Within two weeks, Gomez had taken his ASVAB test, done his physical, and had auditioned for, and made it, into the band, before being shipped off.

“It was a huge change,” Gomez said. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to be able to afford college without the Corps. It was over $70,000 that I got from the Marine Corps, and I still have some today.”

Gomez spent four years in active duty, four in the inactive reserves and served as a Marine Bandsman. He also played the trumpet in one of the Marine Corps’ 12 Field Bands.

“I played oboe and trumpet for the Marine Corps, a little bit of violin,” Gomez said. “I play all the saxophones. But, oboe and trumpet were the ones that stuck. I was part of the Show Band, the Jazz Band, Marching Band, Concert Band and I was a trumpet player. We would frequently play “Taps” at military funerals with a full Rifle Detail (“21 Gun Salute.”)”

As a member of the Marines, math teacher Thomas Gomez participated in the Marching Band, Concert Band, Big Band, Show Band and Funeral Detail. Gomez traveled with the band all over the nation, performing at various events, including parades. Among others, he also played in the Tournament of Roses New Year’s Day parade in California, the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans and the Palm Springs 4th of July parades. (Photo Courtesy of Thomas Gomez)

Gomez met celebrities as his bands traveled all over the nation, including Michael Jordan, Morgan Freeman and Robin Williams. He also had the opportunity to perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade, at NFL games, Nascar “pre-shows” and more.

“Whenever I got out, the reason I got out was because of family. But, I got out, and went to my ex-wife’s hometown,” Gomez said. “We went back to New Jersey, so she could get her nursing degree. She wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, which she still is, and I worked with her parents. I wired houses for three years. After that, we came to Texas, and the plan was that I would go to UNT for music, they have a great music program there. But, my friends who had gone to school, college, when I went to the Marine Corps, told me they were having hard times finding jobs with a professional gig.”

By this time, Gomez had two children, and he knew that he couldn’t take the chance of not having a job.

“I kind of put my own dreams off to the side, and I was like, ‘I gotta do something safe,'” Gomez said. “So, I did math. I have a math degree with a secondary-level certification. There are 25 teachers for every two band directors, so I knew I would have a job always in math. I love math, just nowhere near as much as I love music.

Gomez started at an insurance fraud investigating company as a production manager to have a way to provide for his family. Gomez said he believes that it was “divine intervention” that he was able to get this job.

“With all that, I went to school 15-17 hours a semester while I worked about 55 hours each week. So, I was used to that whole full-time job, full-time school,” Gomez said. “And, it was tough.”

Everything that has happened was divine intervention with me.

— Thomas Gomez

For four and a half years, Gomez would sleep from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., and when not in school he was “working or being a dad.” When his boss came to him, offering a higher position with the same company managing a higher office, Gomez said he had some “decisions to make.”

“In that time, teaching had become my passion over music. I was really wanting to teach because I went to a lot of school for that, and it was just my passion,” Gomez said. “I applied everywhere, I would say at least 40 to 50 different places, and I couldn’t get a job. Public schools, everywhere. I only had one interview, and it was at Lewisville, and they didn’t call me back.”

As he found no teaching jobs, Gomez decided to say yes to the position his boss offered him.

“So, it was on a Wednesday, and Friday was the day I was going to say yes, putting that dream off to the side because I was going to make sure I had something,” Gomez said. “We were going out to dinner as a family, and it was divine intervention, God telling me to look online just one more time.”

Looking online once more, Gomez saw a posting for Prosper ISD. One of his good friends in college had student-taught there and helped him get an interview the next day. Within five minutes of leaving the interview, Gomez received a call that he had the job.

“I was teaching On-Level Algebra 2 and Math Models the first year that I came here,” Gomez said. “The reason they put me on that was because of my military background, where I could do classroom management. By the end of the year, I was wanting to do harder math, so I asked them, ‘Can I please do something more difficult?’ And they let me do Calculus, just like that.”

In honor of Red Ribbon Week, math teacher Thomas Gomez sports his Superman costume – which he wore all day while teaching. Speaking of Gomez, senior Kelly Ringhausen said, “He is such a fun teacher in how he explains the concepts of calculus, and he goes above and beyond with everything he provides us as learners. When I am in Mr. Gomez’s classroom, I can’t help but have a smile on my face and be laughing having a good time doing the best subject, math.” Many students have also agreed that Gomez has had this kind of impact on them. (Amanda Hare)

In his time at Prosper High School, Gomez has taught On-Level and Pre-AP Algebra II, On-Level and Pre-AP Pre-Calculus, PSAT Test Prep, and AP Calculus AB and BC. Gomez said that Calculus is his favorite subject to teach.

Gomez said he does not get tired of teaching.

“I don’t get bored because the students are different,” Gomez said. “I don’t teach to teach, I teach to learn. I’m not focused on learning the math, I’m focused on learning about you guys. How do your brains think? What are your passions? How can I connect your passions to math? Not, how can I connect you to the math, how can I connect math to you? That’s why I never get bored of teaching.”

Looking to the future, Gomez said he wants to go to law school.

“I want to do it to where I teach and go to school at the same time, but I don’t know,” Gomez said. “It might be teaching part-time or teaching online.”

Gomez said that he wants to go into law “because of the family dynamics of a divorce.”

“It started to instill a passion again,” Gomez said. “I’m drawn to help people, so when I see people needing help, I want to step in – and not just for parents but for kids, what they have to go through. I just feel like I want to help people who may not be able to afford good representation. Not necessarily do it pro bono, because I still need to eat, but enough to make a living and enough to help people.”

Over his 12 years in Prosper, Gomez said he has witnessed growth, transition and change.

“I think it used to feel more home,” Gomez said. “I think it used to feel more small-town. I think it used to feel more authentic –more genuine.”

Gomez said he has been inspired by other educators at Prosper High School, including former principal, Greg Wright.

“That man. I’d walk through fire for that man,” Gomez said. “He had me at hello. When we first met him, he said, ‘If you would like,’ he wouldn’t force anyone, he’d ask, ‘Please join us in prayer.’ The wholeness that it takes to say something like that in a public school – he immediately had my respect.”

Gomez said he liked that Wright led “from the front by example.”

“He’s so passionate about people, it was just hard not to be better when you were around him,” Gomez said. “He inspired my spirit every day, and I will unapologetically say he helped my faith grow. He led me to Christ every single day through his actions, and he helped me lead others to Christ through his actions. He motivated me, and I felt that also through Dr. Watkins. To me, Dr. Watkins was a perfect blend of what Mr. Wright is, and what the military was for me.”

A huge part of Gomez’s career at Prosper included guiding the formation of a UIL Math Team. The idea to start a class came from other schools and also the Debate Team, which has its own competition preparation class.

“Within two or three years of creating the class, we had a state champion,” Gomez said.

One memorable experience Gomez said he recalls from his years of teaching involves the UIL Math Team, and the way that it helped one student to find his place.

“Logan (Davenport) was quiet. Very off to the side, very humble, kind, but he was very quiet. But, he has so much to share, because he’s brilliant. He might be the smartest kid I’ve ever taught so far. Like, I want to be like him when I grow up, I want to be that smart,” Gomez said. “He found his place whenever he joined UIL math. His leadership skills just amplified, his communication skills just amplified, everything about him. So, to watch that happen, it was awesome. Just to see him come out of his own shell. That was meaningful, because not only his true self came out, but he also inspired me to do the same.”

Gomez is also the sponsor of the Ping Pong Club which many students said they have enjoyed being a part of over the past seven years. Tournaments the club has competed in have also helped them to raise funds for new equipment.

After attending math camps at Texas Tech while he was in middle school, Gomez said he was able to be involved in many new experiences – including those that led him to ping pong.

“I think it was like four or five weeks in the summer, and we would get exposed to lots of stuff,” Gomez said. “It wasn’t for a grade, I got it off of a scholarship because we couldn’t afford to pay for that. It was classes in the morning, lunch, classes in the afternoon, almost like college.”

On their two-hour breaks, Gomez and his friends would go to the rec center, where, most of the time, they would play video games. One day, a college student who was playing a doubles match needed a partner and asked Gomez if he could play tennis and if would be his partner – to which Gomez replied, yes.

“I did play tennis in middle school, and it just kind of started like that,” Gomez said. “I would play two hours every single day during those summers and in the Marine Corps, we played a lot of ping pong. With students these 12 years, we’ve played a lot of ping pong.”

Pointing to a photograph on the wall of the original Ping Pong Club, Gomez said, “This is the only kid who’s ever beat me. He beat me once, and I beat him once. So, we’re tied.”

It’s a fun way to make new friends and become closer with other people.

— Lisa Pham

“I like the club with Mr. Gomez because he is a very energetic teacher, and makes the vibe really fun and positive,” Ping Pong Club President and junior Lisa Pham said. “It’s a fun way to make new friends and become closer with other people.”

Among many other memorable experiences that Gomez recalled over his career of teaching, he said one that comes to mind for him was teaching a student named Lexie Bell. After digging through a few files, Gomez pulled out a student of the month certificate.

“I have to give her this,” Gomez said. “I kept forgetting to give it to her, and I will give it to her.”

Bell, a 2020 Prosper High School graduate, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer while a student in Gomez’s class. Gomez said that before her diagnosis, Bell would come in for tutoring almost every single morning.

“She got diagnosed with cancer right when we started to prep for our AP exam,” Gomez said. “And, just her fight, her positivity, it’s so inspirational to see in a girl her age. Her work ethic was second to none. Being able to fall down, smile, and get back up – she had that strength. I don’t know if I would have that strength. It was inspiring, and still is inspiring.”

A student once asked me if I became a teacher to change the world, and I said, ‘No – I’m trying to help the ones that will.’

— Thomas Gomez

Today, Bell is cancer-free, and Gomez said he still keeps in touch with her.

Many of his students, past, and present, said Gomez has left an impact on them and taught them many lessons, even ones larger than math. Gomez shared two that he said he hopes students will carry with them beyond graduation.

“Not to be afraid of mistakes. Not to be afraid of failure,” Gomez said. “And, when you get knocked down, to always get up with a smile. That’s one thing. The other thing is, that this can go with AP scores. This can go with GPA. This can go with money. They’re just numbers. Your GPA is not your worth. Your rank is not your worth. All this is that the world tries to quantify your specialness – it can’t.”

Gomez said his mission continues to be more than just teaching course objectives.

“A student once asked me if I became a teacher to change the world,” Gomez said. “And I said, ‘No – I’m trying to help the ones that will.'”