Math teacher honored with national award nomination

Originally published on March 3, 2015

Math teacher Thomas Chambers at the whiteboard, teaching. Photo by Zoe Kaiser

Amongst the many dedicated teachers who are a part of the San Francisco Unified School District, only one was honored by California League of Schools — and he was from our school.

Math teacher Thomas Chambers was nominated for Educator of the Year, an award given to one teacher per year in the country, by the Lowell administration and was selected as one of six teachers to represent the Bay Area in the statewide competition of the California League of Schools.

Principal Andrew Ishibashi nominated Chambers for the award. “Throughout my 28 years in education, I’ve met many educators and Tom Chambers is one of the most hard-working and intelligent people I’ve met,” Ishibashi said.

Chambers is the only teacher from SFUSD who was nominated in 2014. He made a speech at the Corporate Leadership Award dinner, a dinner to honor the nominees, on Nov. 4, in which he described some of his contributions to Lowell. Chambers spoke about Lowell’s Summer Bridge algebra program which eligible incoming ninth graders can take. The Lowell PTSA funds this program and has improved students grades in the first semester math classes.

Chambers outside his temporary classroom in the X-wing. Photo by Zoe Kaiser

“Throughout my 28 years in education, I’ve met many educators and Tom Chambers is one of the most hard-working and intelligent people I’ve met.”

Throughout Chambers’s life, teaching has always been his dream, but it was not his first career. Chambers grew up in Southern California during the time of the Vietnam War. He attended University of California, San Diego, where he double majored in Physics and Economics.

After he graduated, Chambers was drafted into the military but decided to join the Navy instead. During his time there as a supply officer, Chambers was stationed at different locations across the country. Chambers retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. One of his more interesting moments was when the nuclear reactor on his submarine had problems when he was underway. “We had to snorkel using our diesel generator to power the boat while the nukes (nuclear trained technicians) repaired the rod control mechanism,” Chambers said.

After Chambers retired from the Navy, he received his teaching credential from San Francisco State University. He substituted at various schools in the Bay Area until he received his current job at Lowell where he has taught for the past 21 years.

Chambers has taught almost every math course that has been offered at the school and currently teaches Advanced Placement Statistics.

He has also been the Math Department Head for the past 12 years. “I like serving as an interface between the teachers and administration,” Chambers said. “I get to serve my Department just like I served my fellow sailors in the Navy. I also teach, which has to be the most enjoyable job in the school. I really have the best of both worlds.”

Chambers also serves on the School Site Council. “The SSC is one of few bodies with parents, staff, administration and students,” Chambers said. “We represent all of the school so we really should be kept informed and if we all know what is happening and why, we can work together to make Lowell a better place.” Chambers is the chairperson on SSC and is in charge of making the agenda and running the meetings.

“I’ve been on the site council at another school and it just didn’t function as well as it does here at Lowell, and a lot of it has to do with how Mr. Chambers is really honest and he really cares about making it function and educating everybody as to what they’re going to be voting on so people can be prepared,” English teacher Cathy Innis said.

Chambers is not only valuable on the SSC, but he is also helpful. “As always, Tom Chambers tries to seek solutions to problems,” Ishibashi said. “He’s been a big personal help to me, for his words of wisdom and guidance have helped me become a better principal and survive the stress of Lowell.”