School welcomes alum back as comp sci teacher

September 10, 2018 — by Callia Yuan and Christine Zhang

Thomas Wang, a 2009 Saratoga High alum, has returned to teach at the school that launched him nearly a decade ago. He is teaching AP Computer Science and Digital Electronics.

Wang graduated from Harvard University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Upon graduation, he gained experience working as an intern at Facebook and was recruited by a number of other tech companies. Eventually, however, Wang decided to turn to education. He taught high school math in the state of Washington before taking on a job at Saratoga High.

Wang declined to speak to The Falcon for this story, but others were more than willing to praise him as a person and a teacher.

“When he was introducing himself, he talked about how he moved between all these jobs and found that teaching was the most rewarding,” said junior Joshua Yoon, who has Wang for AP Computer Science. “I can understand where he’s coming from, because I think teaching well has a lot of merit and it’s not as easy as people think.”

Yoon said that Wang places a strong emphasis on connecting with his students. On the first day of school, APCS students started with bonding exercises. Wang asked everyone to share their experience in CS and their goals for the school year. The students then had group activities such as pair programming.

Sophomore Feranno Liu, who is also in Wang’s APCS class, said he enjoys the interactive aspect of the class.

“I actually like his method of teaching,” Liu said. “He genuinely wants to know more about his students and their struggles.”

To assistant principal Brian Safine, Wang stood out from the pool of job applicants because of his willingness to interact and connect with the students.

“What I remember [from watching a video of him teaching] is that he really checked in on everybody to make sure they were engaged,” Safine said. “He didn’t want to let students hide, so he made sure that he was connecting with each of them as he taught.”

According to Safine, several tech companies wanted to recruit Wang even before he graduated from college, and Wang spent several years working in the industry before becoming a teacher — experience that his students are sure to benefit from.

Safine added that when Wang attended Saratoga High, he was not only very bright, but also affable, humble and well rounded. These characteristics can still be seen in him today, Safine said.

“People should understand that he’s really a man of diverse interests and abilities, rather than someone who strictly focuses on academics,” Safine said.

As a Saratoga High student, Wang played on the school’s varsity basketball team and was also a member of the orchestra. Perhaps most impressive of all, he was able to become the valedictorian for his class even as he was involved in these activities.

Mike Davey, who was Wang’s basketball coach during Wang’s junior year, said that he always saw Wang as a sort of “superhuman.” The basketball team would call him “Mr. Fundamental” because he did everything right by the book as an athlete, Davey said.

Davey liked that Wang balanced a multitude of activities in his life. He knew that Wang valued academics along with athletics and community work, since Wang also worked in a hospital during his high school years.

“He didn’t do [basketball and community work] to put a checkmark on his box for graduation; he did it because he loved it, and I always respected that,” Davey said.

So far, Wang’s students seem to be enjoying his teaching style. Liu remembers coming to class early one day to ask a question, and Wang “was happy to answer it and asked me whether or not [his response] was helpful.”

Safine also said he appreciates Wang’s ability to include everyone.

“He’s really dedicated to the task of making [the curriculum] understandable to his students,” Safine said. “We’re lucky to have him.”

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Sophomore Isaac Sun leaps over other sophomores during their quad day on Sept. 19. Photo by Alan Zu.

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