“We are here to stay until we die, forever and forever in Tooele.”
These lyrics from Tooele High School’s school song can be heard ringing through the halls of the building during assemblies and sporting events, and for some current THS staff members, its words have taken on a very literal meaning. Of the 140 staff members at THS, 34 of them are former students — nearly 25 percent of the staff.
THS Principal Bill Gochis is one of those staff members. Thirty-seven years ago, Gochis was getting ready to graduate from THS with the class of 1975.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be principal of my high school,” Gochis said. “I am just very honored to be entrusted with this job. I’m honored to guide this school.”
Gochis became principal of THS in 2006. Before that, even before Gochis was enrolled at THS, his school pride was an extreme factor in his life.
“My dad went to Tooele too, and my dad was the announcer for the games for a very long time so I grew up with Tooele High,” Gochis said. “It was a major part of my childhood. Growing up in Tooele, when Tooele was much smaller, the school was always a part of everyone’s lives. The school was always a place you could come for friends.”
Gochis said his main goal as principal of THS is to have the students take away memories of friendship, fun and learning.
“The friendships and memories from high school are something you will have forever and forever,” said Gochis.
Among Tooele High’s class of 1965 was Walter Vigil. In 2005, Vigil found himself working as a full-time substitute at THS. Soon after in 2007 he became the in-school suspension (ISS) teacher.
“I think it was working with these kids when I was a sub that made me want to be in ISS,” he said. “It was me being able to be a learning tool for them. The older one gets, the more one looks at his difficulties in life. I hoped that by coming back [to THS] I would give my grandkids something to look up to. You know, ‘if grandpa can do it, so can I’ kind of thing.”
John Olson started teaching history classes at THS just eight years after graduating with the class of 1977.
“The greatest part of teaching is the students,” Olson said. “My philosophy is that about 15 percent of students are going to think you’re the best teacher. They really like you. Another 15 percent of students aren’t really going to like you, and 70 percent don’t really care. They just want to get the education and move on, but with coaching, being the student government adviser, and really working closely with those students, it’s going to get you close to those students.”
Olson said THS didn’t use to have a student government class, but he felt there was a need for one, so he worked with the principal to add it to the school’s curriculum in 1992. For the past 20 years, Olson has been the student government adviser.
“I loved my high school years at THS and hope to be able to teach in a way that my students will also remember with fondness their time at Tooele High School,” Olson said. “I finished my senior year as a student body officer. That was probably one of my major highlights of my senior year.”
Besides being the student government adviser and a history teacher, Olson also used to be the assistant swim coach and he coached football for a year.
“I take it very personal when someone says they dislike THS because I love it so much,” he said. “I think that is why I love being involved in planning the activities at THS. My hope is that I can help create lasting memories for each and every member of the student body so that each and every student will wish they could be ‘forever and forever’ in Tooele.”
Olson helps his student government class plan most dances, spirit week, homecoming, rivalry week and other events that focus on getting students involved.
“I was honored and blessed to have great teachers who also served as my mentors when I came back to Tooele High as a teacher,” Olson said. “Mr. Holger Tychsen and Mr. Leland Beckstrom were two, among others, who taught me the importance of being true to myself, being a man of integrity, and how to teach students in a respectful, friendly and disciplined manner.”
From the class of 2000, Jen Gygi and Tyler Rydalch have come back to THS to teach.
Gygi returned to THS in 2008. She teaches health part time and is head coach of the THS cheerleaders. In high school, Gygi was a cheerleader for three years. She and her team won two state-level cheerleading championships her junior and senior year.
“Cheerleading has influenced me a great deal as I am in my fifth year coaching,” Gygi said. “I actually decided I wanted to teach because I wanted to coach cheerleading and the only way I could see having that opportunity was to become a teacher.”
Rydalch returned to THS to teach math classes in 2009. He works with the new math core to help students become more fluent in math, he said.
During Rydalch’s senior year, he signed up to be a Mr. Tooele contestant. The Mr. Tooele pageant started many years ago and has become a tradition at THS. Senior boys sign up a few weeks before the pageant takes place, and the categories differ from year to year. A few judges score the contestants and, much like a Miss America pageant, a Mr. Tooele and two attendants are crowned. By the end of his pageant, Rydalch had become Mr. Tooele 2000.
“The main things I remember about the experience was having to wear an evening gown, having a brown suede bell bottom suit that I bought at D.I., and who won,” said Rydalch. “Of course I won, but I did not think of myself as one of the more popular students. In fact, all three of us who won didn’t feel like the most popular students.”
Rydalch also took part in the rodeo club and was a member of the FFA.
“I really didn’t think that I would end up coming back, but I guess if you sing the school song then eventually the words will bring you back,” said Rydalch.
Kim Palmer Brady graduated with the class of 2004. In high school, she was involved with student government and several different sports, and returned to THS in 2008 much to her surprise, she said. She currently teaches health and physical education classes.
“When I was in high school, I was never going to come back to Tooele,” she said. “I had the mindset at that age that Tooele sucks. I think a lot of kids these days have that same mindset too. Once I left, I saw how good it really was.”
Kyle Brady graduated a year before Kim in 2003. When he was in high school he was focused on sports. He was involved with basketball, football, baseball and track. Kyle and Kim attended high school during the same time, but never really got to know each other until they both started working at THS.
“I hung out with some of his friends (in high school), but he was in his own little sports world,” said Kim. “He was good at everything he did and he knew he was good at sports and stuff. I don’t want to say he was arrogant. That sounds rude, but he knew he was good. He just came off that way to me.”
The two started to date when Kyle started working as a substitute teacher at THS in 2009. He now teaches special education and weight lifting classes. Kyle and Kim tied the knot in 2010.
“And it’s been awesome ever since,” Kim said. “If I had to say who I was going to marry in high school, he probably would have been my last choice. That sounds really rude but I just never saw it coming. But now, honestly, we are perfect together and I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
The words of the THS school song echo through the classrooms and hallways of THS as the teachers share their stories of when they walked through the doors of THS — first as students, and later as educators. After every win and loss, the crowd at a THS football or basketball game will sing the school song. The words are sung loudly and proudly each time. When a student is late to Olson’s student government class, the student has to sing the school song before they are allowed to sit down, and when students are eating lunch in the THS cafeteria, it is hard to miss the large white letters that read “Forever and Forever” on the wall above the lunch lines.
“I think that is what makes our school song so special, ‘Forever and Forever,’” Gochis said. “You’re from Tooele and you take that with you where ever you go.”