Meet Paly’s new physics teacher

Sun, surf and sea spray – the photo from a few years ago shows physics professor Thomas Peters enjoying the view of San Francisco Bay from his sailboat. With the wind in his hair and the sun in his face, Peters, recently hired to teach Palo Alto High School, finds the physics of sailing fascinating. Peters’ general interest in physics ranges from the complex aerodynamics of a sailing ship to simple classroom experiments.

Thomas Peters, professor of physics, supervises a group of H physics students who carry out a practical part of their test. Peters is keen to emphasize the day-to-day applications of content. “You could spend months studying the physics of cooking, you could spend a month studying the physics of sailing or the physics of music, because pretty much everything there is is based on physics and science. ” Peters said. (Photo: Sophia Yang)

Peters is a Bay Area native who grew up and lived in Campbell all his life. Prior to teaching at Paly, he completed a teacher preparation program at San Jose State University. Last year, Peters taught physics at Los Gatos High School as part of the prep program. Peters began teaching at the start of the semester after former physics professor Keith Geller retired.

In high school, Peters initially wanted to pursue a career as a music teacher after teaching music throughout middle school and high school. However, he ended up majoring in physics and engineering, a decision influenced by his interest in sailing.

“I walked out of my middle school music building and looked around and thought, well, now what?” Peters said. “At the time, the [2012 Cat Sailboat] races were going on, and I always thought sailing was great because of the amount of physics and engineering involved.

According to Peters, his passion for sailing led him to pursue a career in physics after previously taking a music-related path. The intricacies of aerodynamics and physics behind the structure of the sailboat interested him greatly.

“This [the 2012 Cat Sailboat Races] This was the first year they used the boiling boat system which has a piece that sticks underwater and lifts most of the boat out of the water,” Peters said. “There’s a lot less drag and it becomes a big physics problem.”

Growing up, Peters became interested in a variety of subjects, but teaching was always a path he wanted to take. He has experience in teaching different subjects.

Peters takes part in an afternoon sailing session on the bay. Outside of teaching, he enjoys regularly launching his Coronado-15 from Redwood City Corkscrew Slough. “I like to sail when I can get out,” Peters said. “It’s something I’ve always loved doing.” (Photo: Thomas Peters)

“I got it a year of high school physics experience, but I’ve been teaching other things for most of my life,” Peters said. “My first job in college was teaching sailing lessons and I’ve also been teaching the marching part of a marching band for about a dozen years now.”

According to Peters, there are aspects of the school that he is not used to, but he feels welcomed by both his students and his colleagues.

“The rest of the science department has been so wonderful and helped me figure things out,” Peters said. “My students were also helpful and understanding about the transition.”

Peters said he hopes to help students understand and share his love for the subject.

“I never studied physics in high school. I really wish I had it,” Peters said. “I have always found science to be one of the most rewarding subjects to study, simply because it is found in every other aspect of our lives.”

Comments are closed.