“Academics is the frosting that makes your life delightful,” Don McCauley said.
This sentiment effectively captures McCauley’s appreciation for education, as he’s been a tutor at MVHS for 30 years.
McCauley tutors because of the “stimulation.” He enjoys the “mutual flow” of knowledge that comes out of mentoring and it was Charlie Vetter, who used to tutor at MVHS, who helped McCauley to realize this. McCauley explained that Vetter would come to school everyday, and as learned after he passed, would spend the rest of the afternoon telling his neighbor about his day with MVHS students.
Prior to becoming a tutor, McCauley was an engineer. He worked at Philco, which built the first US Satellite. He describes his time working at Philco as a “real delight.” He enjoyed working with colleagues, whose “keen minds” he admired, and applying concepts he had learned. Particularly, he remembers learning spherical trigonometry. At the time, it seemed obscure, but he soon found himself needing to use it.
“Boy did we have fun! The things we built took a year or more to design and build,” McCauley said.
He also served time in the Navy.
“Imagine a ship with 3,000 people…You can’t get off and have to obey. It’s interesting…Those 2 years were intense sociological and psychological education,” McCauley said.
However, he claims his time in the Navy to be “all worth it,” because, without this experience, he would not have met his wife, Shirley.
He described her as an “exceptional young lady” with very admirable qualities. They got married a year and a half later from when they met at a ball.
Something McCauley admired about his wife was how she seemed to strive to embody what she appreciated most about people. Over the years, McCauley has learned “that character is paramount.”
In addition to this, McCauley advises to supplement character with as much knowledge as you can.
“Don’t forget anything! You never know when it’ll save your bacon…Collect it all,” McCauley said.
Louise Thompson, an Awalt High School (MVHS’ former name) alumnus, is back in Mountain View 44 years later as a tutor in the Tutorial Center. She primarily teaches chemistry, but can also be of assistance in many other areas — such as Physics, Biology, Psychology, French, and more.
The variety of subject areas Thompson dabbles in reflects her deep value and appreciation for learning, something she
describes to be of utmost importance to her. She believes in a “wholesome” academic experience and is very grateful for the many courses she took outside her major in college.
Thompson feels her career in science was solidified by a particular experience she had in college. She had to present an idea she had for a project to faculty and faced several obstacles. For instance, her GPA was lower than the requirement and her major advisor was skeptical of her proposal.
“When people tell me I can’t do something, that just makes it a challenge,” she said.
Her project was not only approved, but described as one of the “best projects done,” according to the faculty. Thompson expressed how empowering this was.
Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and went on to do work in both Cardiology and Oncology. She particularly enjoyed her experience doing research. In fact, Thompson has her name published in 11 different scientific journals. The most rigorous of experiments she did was looking at apoptosis, or cell death. She and her team examined how to treat tumors with heat and radiation. They worked in shifts, as laboratory work would be several days long at a time.
Although she no longer researches, Thompson has also taught and currently tutors. She understands teaching to be a mutual effort — requiring hard work from both the teacher and students.
Over the years, Thompson has become impassioned by not only the world of science but by social justice as well.
“It’s hard to describe…I’m a libra. Balance is really important to me. And [right now]justice is something out of balance. It really shakes me,” she said.
In addition to the rose tattoo on her ankle she has matching her daughter’s, Thompson hopes to get a tattoo saying “Truth and Justice” in latin, which her son would get as well.
Similarly, Thompson believes the only way to be happy is to “be true to your essence.”
Larry Friedrich has come to enjoy teaching very deeply throughout his life — whether it be training employees at Intel or tutoring students at MVHS.
Friedrich went to college after high school, and describes his experience to be “unfavorable.” He felt that his professors weren’t particularly invested in his learning and that this pushed him to be a teacher. He strives to explain concepts to the student as best he can, and make the “lightbulb go off” — which he finds very rewarding. He tutors in Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, and all math subjects.
Out of college, he worked at Intel for 25 years. He worked as a process engineer and then in technical training. He enjoyed the “chance to stay at the forefront of sophisticated technology.”
However, what Friedrich feels most people would not expect about him is that he’s a “frustrated actor.” Until about 10 years ago, he participated in community theater, both on and behind the stage. He was primarily in comedies and dramas as part of the ensemble, and his favorite role was Scoop in The Heidi Chronicles. He had been involved in theater since elementary school, but ultimately chose to pursue engineering.
“I wouldn’t have been very successful with an unstable job [like this]. But it was a real love of mine,” Friedrich said.
In addition to his interests, Friedrich holds his relationships with people very close to heart. In fact, he describes himself as someone who “lives in the past.” He is still close with his group of friends from high school, as they do annual trips together and have been all over the country.
“I live for those weekends. They’re my favorite parts of the year,” he said.
His favorite trip was the Canadian Rockies, which he found to be absolutely incredible.
“I tell people that the reason mammals evolved sight was because of them… Just brilliant, brilliant geology,” he said.
Ultimately, Friedrich has one particular piece of advice for MVHS students.
“Throw yourself into what you do, and be committed,” he said.