HomeNewsComputer science and engineering teacher retiring after 33 years

Computer science and engineering teacher retiring after 33 years

Published June 1, 2022


From teaching English and Microsoft Office to computer science and robotics, Carmel High School teacher Tom Clifford’s long and rewarding career has never shown a clear path to retirement until this year, when the beloved teacher and coach decided it was the right time to say goodbye.

Despite beginning his career at CHS as an English teacher, Clifford’s engineering and computer science classes have now offered opportunities for students interested in STEM and technology. This includes his impactful position as the coach for Team 2035, the prominent CHS robotics team he’s helped coach since its founding in 2007.

“He helped me find what I was interested in through robotics,” says Riley Mahoney, a mechanical engineering major at University of California, Santa Barbara. Mahoney graduated from CHS in 2021 as a four-year member of Team 2035. “That experience definitely correlates to my major now.”

Clifford’s colleagues will also miss working with him, as he is known to be involved, innovative and a particularly excellent lip-sync performer when it comes to The B-52’s Love Shack.

“He was always trying to give students the most real world, authentic experience that he could,” English department chair Barbara McBride says. “He was really inspiring to me as a new teacher.”

While there was no singular catalyst for Clifford’s decision to retire, a few components tied together to seal the deal, including the difficulties of the online year and having been on a school schedule since 1966.

“I’ve been teaching for a long time, so it was definitely on the horizon,” Clifford explains. “I guess what I would say is I would rather retire a year too early than a year too late. I want to go out with a good taste in my mouth. I love my job, so I would rather go out with maybe a few less dollars in my pocket, but with a really good feeling in my heart.”

Tom Clifford, a CHS teacher for over three decades, is looking forward to pursing new interests and outdoor activities in his retirement. (photo by SHAYLA DUTTA)

Clifford began his career path as a Human Biology major at Stanford, but soon realized his passion lay elsewhere. After switching to English and eventually obtaining a teaching credential, he taught in the Bay Area for four years before moving to Carmel with his wife.

“I got a job and found pretty quickly that I really enjoyed working with high school students and had a good experience there,” Clifford explains. “Then, coincidentally, my wife got a job out in Carmel Valley the same day that I got this job.”

As computer technology grew in classrooms, the former English teacher began educating his fellow teachers to use computer applications as teaching aids, which eventually became a course for students. As the use of technology progressed, so did his class offerings and involvement in computer science. Currently, Clifford teaches two different Advanced Placement computer science courses and two engineering courses.

Beyond the classroom, the instructor has also coached multiple athletic programs including cross-country and soccer. While those have been handed off to subsequent coaches, he is currently the only coach for CHS’ robotics program.

“The last thing I want is for Team 2035 to die because they couldn’t find anybody to do it,” says Clifford, explaining it’s a possibility he comes back to fill in the gap during the transition. “What I want is for the team to thrive. But I think a change in leadership, for growth in an organization, is also important.”

Even with the possibility of continuing to coach, the teacher now looks towards the upcoming bounty of free time. Between backpacking, running, working in tech, and robotics, the teacher says he intends to put his time towards something productive, rewarding and engaging. Currently, the absence of solid plans opens to a realm of possibilities.

“I’ve always valued his friendship and enthusiasm towards teaching,” English teacher Pat Robel says. “I’m thrilled that he gets to have time to try new things.”

The retirement of a teacher so integral to the CHS community will always be bittersweet, but the teacher leaves content with the time he’s spent here.

“I’ve done a lot of different things here, and I don’t necessarily hang my hat on any one, but I’ve tried to do the best job I can to push the organization,” Clifford says, “whether that’s the robotics team or track, the cross-country program, the soccer program or the school.”


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