From high tech to high school hallways: Former engineer joins science faculty

October 15, 2023 — by Bryan Zhao
Photo by Bryan Zhao
Casavant points to a formula detailing the velocity of an object in a circular orbit.
Tom Casavant spent most of his career at Lockheed Martin, specializing in optics. He became a teacher to inspire kids.

On a typical day, new Physics teacher Tom Casavant delves into the complex curriculum of the AP Physics 1 and 2 class in front of a classroom full of inquisitive students. Occasionally he pauses and then explains the links between the class concepts and the vast knowledge he has accumulated through his years on the frontline of innovation in optics and defense as an engineer at Lockheed Martin, a large defense and aerospace company.

Casavant became interested in teaching in 2005 when he worked with his son on a science fair project. Casavant guided him as his son devised a detector for the mass of weakly interacting massive particles, a candidate theory for dark matter. 

After seeing students work on projects in various STEM fields and traveling to international science fairs, he was inspired to help other students achieve their dreams of excelling in STEM subjects. So, he transferred from his previous career as an optical engineer at Lockheed Martin to pursue teaching, obtaining his teaching credentials while working full-time.  

At Lockheed Martin, Casavant worked on synthesizing images from satellites through waves, which is based on the bending of light and how light reacts with different materials. Images from the satellites would then be used by the military for future planning and defense. By connecting many of the concepts taught in class to real-life applications from his job, he said he hopes to  give students a glimpse into possible future professions that an understanding of physics will allow them.

After leaving the optics and defense industry, Casavant taught at Gunn High School for a year and a half. He said the atmosphere here is similar, with many students taking rigorous college-level classes. 

One difference he notices at Saratoga High, however, is that there are “talented kids wherever you go [on campus],” whereas at other schools there might be only one or two types of these students in a class. He said he is awed at the number of students here who are multi-talented and versatile. 

Junior Ashish Goswami, one of Casavant’s students, said the class has a lively atmosphere.

“Mr. Casavant’s class is highly interactive since each of his questions involve multiple students,” he said. “He tells lots of jokes and makes the overall atmosphere light and fun, and his overall physics knowledge is undeniable.” 

Goswami said he is looking forward to the satellites unit, in which Casavant will help enrich the unit from his previous experience in the industry. 

 Asked whether he has any regrets about not still being on the cutting edge of industry in his new career, Casavant smiles as he cheerfully says, “It’s impossible to not have regrets, but I’m happy with where I am. The students, colleagues and administration have all been great. I’m very happy and Saratoga High is a pretty special place.”

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