A Fond Farewell to Mr. Gomez
Mr. Juan Gomez is leaving Columbus after 23 of dedicated service as a math teacher, Dean of Students, and Director of Development. Below is remembrance written by Mr. David Ulloa, English teacher, and member of the CCHS Class of 2005.
By Mr. Ulloa
Sophomore year, I took geometry with a new teacher named Mr. Aviles. I sat far back enough and asked few enough questions in class for him generally not to notice that I perpetually sported a five o’clock shadow at nine in the morning. And every day, I’d race to leave class, not because I didn’t want to be late to my next class, but because Mr. Gomez taught Auto-CAD right next door and had a penchant for finding even the slightest bit of scruff on a teenager. Regardless of how close to breaking the sound barrier I came, I could never leave geometry without hearing that icy voice right beside me saying, “David, go down and shave, please.”
I never spent much time in his office when he was disciplinarian. I tried to keep myself out of trouble and generally did. But, somehow Mr. Gomez knew my name and knew the exact moment I’d be leaving the classroom next door. It was frightening, actually. He was telepathic. And he was as imposing as any known cosmic force with his calm whispering voice. “David, go down and shave, please,” he’d say, and I’d respond with a courteous, “Yes, sir.”
Of course, as I was 15 and infinitely more intelligent than every living adult, excluding Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan, I would head towards the office and quickly double back towards Mr. Chacon’s Honors English class where I would imagine Mrs. Fernandez waiting for some dimwitted underclassman to show up with a scowl and a dollar, one palm upraised and awaiting the Gillette shave gel and one hitter safety razor. I had outsmarted Mr. Gomez and would continue to do so. I was invincible.
After a little while, Mr. Gomez caught on. One day, we met at the usual place and I stopped dead. I didn’t hear that familiar voice speaking a familiar request. I heard a familiar voice and a slightly altered request that informed me the jig was up. “David, let’s go down and shave,” he said.
I was not, in fact, smarter than Mr. Gomez or anyone else. I was not, in fact, invincible. And as Mr. Gomez ushered me into the attendance office I no longer had to imagine Mrs. Fernandez waiting for a dimwitted underclassman to show up with a scowl and a dollar because there I stood with a scowl and a dollar. That’s how I was defeated – to misquote T.S. Eliot – not with a bang but a whisper. It was with the whispering voice of Mr. Gomez that my reign as teenage know-it-all had ended.
The next morning, and every morning thereafter for the duration of my academic career at Columbus, I got up ten minutes early to shave and ensure I was in compliance with the uniform code. The lesson I was taught, however, was deeper and more meaningful than simply learning to shave every morning. I learned that sometimes you do things because you want to. Sometimes you do things because you have to. And still other times you do things when you neither want to nor have to, but because you were asked to. The important thing is that you did it the right way. It doesn’t matter that no one is watching, because you do it for yourself. It took shaving for Mr. Gomez to realize that I must do things for myself. You shouldn’t follow a rule because it’s a rule, rather because it’s the right thing to do. The structure I received from Mr. Gomez helped shape me into the man I am today.
Mr. Gomez, you will be greatly missed. The gentlemen in this school who never had a chance to interact with you as a disciplinarian don’t know what they are missing. Regardless of that fact, these halls won’t be the same without your presence. Few leave a lasting mark, but yours will stay for many years to come. So, it is with great affection that I say, “Good bye, Ice Man,” though, hopefully, not for the last time.
Photos by The LOG.