A Blast From the Past Part 2: What Our Teachers Were Like in High School

Image courtesy of Ms. Chan, Dr. Nathan, and Mr. Warner

This past fall, we got to know some of our favorite teachers’ high school selves. To say the least, it was incredibly enlightening to learn about their former selves, and experiences that defined their formative years; who would’ve known that Mr. Newman sang the national anthem in front of his whole school? 

As we navigate the novel feelings and events that characterize the typical high school experience, it could be comforting to turn to those who have successfully survived these trying times. With that in mind, we decided to write a follow-up article that delves into the high school experiences of three other teachers. 

The moment 14-year-old Peggy Chan glided down the legendary escalators of Stuyvesant High School, she felt right at home. In an interview with The Gazette, she recalled that, “When I went to Stuyvesant and I realized I was around other nerds; it was so great.” 


Indeed, Ms. Chan was in the company of around 800 other self-identified “nerds,” with whom she formed multiple different friend groups. She and her friends bonded over many shared traits: their love of learning, experiences as the children of immigrants, and most damningly, identities as Staten-Islanders.  

Every morning, Ms. Chan, with her “Staten Island crew,” boarded the ferry, where they carved out a “Stuy–section” for themselves. On the journey to school, they gathered to finish their homework, and on the way back, they played card games—typically Chinese poker or the classic “BS”—with each other.  

After school (on a Friday or Thursday afternoon of course), Ms. Chan and her friends walked a couple of blocks to the nearest billiard club, where they remained for two to three hours, shooting pool. How many of us can say that’s part of our weekly routine? 

Surprisingly, even the productive and dedicated Ms. Chan isn’t immune from the dreaded “senioritis.” During her second semester of senior year, Ms. Chan, feeling the freedom of a college acceptance, fell into a habit of cutting some of her classes. Since Stuyvesant was brewing with thousands of students, many of whom had free periods, Ms. Chan’s absences went unnoticed by her teachers. Instead of attending band class, where she played the bass clarinet, Ms. Chan often parked herself in front of her locker and hung out with her friends. 

The next story from Ms. Chan’s high school experience is one that, to be clear, she does not endorse. One day, Ms. Chan and her classmates gamed their French oral quiz by assigning different sounds to each multiple choice answer. For example, when the answer was A, someone would cough and when the answer was B, someone else would tap on the table. Their French teacher, who was on the older side, was completely oblivious to her class’ tomfoolery, so they succeeded in “collaborating” on their quiz. 


Long before Toby Nathan joined Grace as a history teacher, currently known for his historical expertise and sense of humor, he was involved in nearly every aspect of his high school. It turns out that history isn’t his only strong suit; young Dr. Nathan was the star of every drama production, captain of the wrestling team, editor of the literary magazine, and quite the prankster. 

Dr. Nathan attended a Quaker boarding school, which, unsurprisingly, is quite different from our experience in an urban high school. Although he had a strict curfew and was subject to endless room checks, there were many upsides to attending a boarding school. As Dr. Nathan described in an interview with The Gazette, “When I think back to the good memories from high school, I remember my friends and I on a weekend, getting a movie and staying up.” 

Although attending boarding school meant that Dr. Nathan’s after prom consisted of playing Madden Football with his roommate, living in a dorm meant that he and his friends could pull pranks on their classmates. In 10th grade, Dr. Nathan’s dorm woke the freshman boys’ dorm at six in the morning to the spray of water guns. In hindsight, Dr. Nathan admitted that one, he’s not proud of his adolescent pranks, and two, it was definitely not a good idea to douse people’s beds with a bucket of water. 

When Dr. Nathan was in high school, it was rare for people to own a laptop, but it just so happened that one victim of their prank had one hidden under his blanket. Naturally, nobody thought about the potential drawbacks of throwing water onto somebody’s bed, and unfortunately, the boy’s computer undoubtedly suffered from water damage. However, we’re fairly confident that his dorm took revenge on Dr. Nathan’s dorm eventually. 

Now that he has some distance from high school days, Dr. Nathan imparted some very welcomed wisdom onto us. He explained that, “When you look back on how busy you were in high school, and how active you were, it bears no relationship to anything that will come later.” 

During a time when the drama and stressors of high school can feel all-consuming, it comes as a comfort to know that this phase is temporary. For better or for worse, there will likely be no other point in our lives where our days will be this structured and our friends will only be a few classrooms away. Furthermore, as Dr. Nathan put it, there is something to the “bozoness and looseness” of high school students that is unique to this part of our lives. 


Robert Warner, or as some consultants have dubbed him, “the father of the Math and Science Center,” seems to have mastered the ins and outs of high school math. However, as The Gazette discovered, math didn’t always come naturally to Mr. Warner. 

It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that “something clicked” and sent Mr. Warner down a mathematical rabbit hole that ultimately led him to Grace. Aside from pursuing math, Mr. Warner was also quite a celebrity in his hometown of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for being talented at playing the violin and piano. 

However, his celebrity status didn’t deter him from engaging in some activities that were not approved by Mr. Warner’s mother… You see, Mr. Warner’s bedroom had a porch, and some nights, he would sneak out and meander over to his town’s Dunkin’ Donuts. There, at one a.m., under the fluorescent lights of the Dunkin’ Donuts, he hung out and chatted with his friends. 

Mr. Warner’s late night escapades to Dunkin’ Donuts were the extent of his rebellious behavior in high school. He did, however, find himself in some rather peculiar situations. 

Mr. Warner was a member of his cross country team, and one day, at a meet, experienced something unusual and quite memorable. Mr. Warner ran his course in 22 minutes and 22 seconds. He got 22nd place and went home from the meet, ordered an Oreo Mcflurry that cost $2.22. This experience defined 22 as Mr. Warner’s lucky number. 

Mr. Warner was friends with everyone in high school. He made everyone laugh and told us that his sense of humor has remained, in many ways, the same as the one of his high school self. Though he has remained the same in regard to his sense of humor and lively spirit, Mr. Warner has grown tremendously since high school, telling us he is a largely more secure and confident person.

To reiterate the message of our last article, it’s important to remember that just like us, our teachers have gone through the high school experience. Although it may seem like they have all the answers now, many of them have also felt the anxiety of participating in class and the stress of cramming for a test. 

We hope that this article makes one thing clear: our teachers are brimming with stories that could potentially shape who we want to be or, on a lighter note, simply give us a good laugh. 

Miranda and Zamira are senior writers on The Grace Gazette staff