RUMFORD — Thomas Wylie made what seems like a big jump more than a dozen years ago — he left his job as an engineer at a paper company and became a chemistry and physics teacher at Mountain Valley High School.

It’s a decision he’s glad he made.

“I like teaching, particularly the aha moments,” he said. “And I like the interaction with the students.”

Wylie, 62, who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, will retire at the end of the school year.

He has devoted 22 years to the pulp and paper industry, with his last position in Jay, and 12 years to teaching high school students.

He was downsized from the former International Paper Co., returned to college to receive his teaching certificate from the University of Maine at Farmington, then began as a chemistry and physics teacher at Mountain Valley High School.

The transition wasn’t difficult, he said. As a paper company engineer, he had led many training sessions for younger employees.

“I highly recommend that in certain subjects, especially science, that people be hired who have real world experience because you’re always going to get questions ‘what am I going to do with this?’” he said.

One example, he said, is gas laws.

“That’s what you need to know to design air bags for cars,” he said.

Each day, he wears a different science-related tie to school. On Monday, it was a colorful tie decorated by flasks, graduated cylinders, test tubes and beakers.

He has more than 100 science-related ties, most given to him by members of his family, many of whom are teachers.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Wylie plans to stay put at his home in Livermore with partner, Janet.

He said his retirement will be a mixed blessing.

“I want to spend more time on the golf course and ski slopes. I still have my health, and I’ll probably volunteer somewhere,” he said. “I will miss the students, but I’ll be able to sleep in when I want.”

He also wants to spend more time trading stocks.

Although he officially came into teaching just 12 years ago, Wylie was involved with children in Junior Achievement when he lived in South Carolina and Boy Scouts when he lived in Auburn.

He plans to retire to his Livermore home. Wylie likes Maine and the more relaxed atmosphere offered here.

“We’re not bumper to bumper or shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

He is the father of two adult children: Steve, who is a dentist in Pennsylvania, and Brenda, who will graduate from American University on May 18 with a law degree. He also has two grandchildren.

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