New teachers Mr. Quach and Ms. Comer become Science Olympiad Coaches


Samira Li

New Scioly coaches Mr. Quach (left) and Ms. Comer (right).

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At the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year, the Townsend Harris High School Science Olympiad team welcomed two new coaches from the science department, physics teacher Michael Quach and chemistry teacher Olivia Comer.Both new teachers are THHS graduates, and though they never joined the team as students, they both said they were enthusiastic about getting involved as coaches upon their return.

During her time as a student, Ms. Comer was drawn toward music-related extracurriculars despite the number of science electives she was taking, she said. Now, she said she looks forward to helping and studying alongside students in her areas of expertise. “Coming into this year, I knew that I wanted to be involved in at least one team or school activity,” she said. “As a science teacher, I was excited to join SciOly because it covers such a wide range of topics that I felt like I could be helpful and also continue to learn more myself.”

Mr. Quach said he was also driven by his positive experiences in clubs as a student at the school. “Becoming a science Olympiad coach was completely out of nowhere. I had just started teaching at THHS, and I wanted to be as involved as I could,” he said. “During my time as a student at THHS, many teachers took the time and effort to help students beyond the classroom. I wanted to emulate that and help students pursue their goals and passions.”

Since both teachers are still new to the faculty, they have been making efforts to get to know the students of SciOly better. Ms. Comer said, “Supervising meetings and study sessions gives me the opportunity to see how the students work together and what their personal strengths are.” 

Mr. Quach said, “I am usually with the team as much as I can be, and for the most part, we’re here four days a week. Although there’s hard work and a lot of studying that takes place, I always find myself sharing laughs and having a good time.”

SciOly President senior Quindy Pan said,”We are extremely thankful to Mr. Quach for agreeing to monitor our study sessions since we can’t use the library this year. He has also created a really inviting atmosphere where we can crack jokes amidst studying. Ms. Comer, along with Mr. Durandis, is always there at our competitions to check us in. She has also been tremendously helpful in getting us lab time and organizing that for us. It’s always easy going up to them to mitigate a problem or tell them what our vision for Scioly is.”

The teachers similarly expressed that their time spent with the team has been a rewarding experience so far. “Seeing how much the students enjoy being on these teams makes me wish I did more in my high school years,” Mr. Quach said.

After attending the LISO invitational on January 7, Ms. Comer said that she was proud of the team’s performance at their first competition of the year. For many students, it was their first in-person invitational with SciOly as well, and Ms. Comer said,“it provided everyone with a really valuable experience.”

Likewise, Mr. Quach conveyed pride for the team’s progress and determination. “Every time I see the team and what they represent, I think of the following quote: ‘Hard work pays off, dreams come true. Tough times never last, but tough people do.’ There’s a lot of struggle and difficulty that comes with this team, but the [students] get better and stronger with each passing day. They overcome setbacks, and I’m confident they will be successful,” he said.

Junior Elisabeth Poclitar said, “Mr. Quach and Ms. Comer are the definition of great coaches. They dedicate themselves to the team as if they were the ones competing.”

Photo by Samira Li