My favorite teacher who never taught me

Written by Will Piepszak ’21 

I woke up the Saturday of my first day at Peddie and walked to the car with my mom, both excited and anxious. We arrived for Peddie On Campus Orientation (POCO) and multiple Peddie students ecstatically welcomed our car to campus through vibrant cheers and colorful signs. This welcoming party of crazed Peddie students eased my stress and subdued my worries. If all these kids would dress up like lunatics and scream “Welcome to Peddie!” at the top of their lungs, then this place couldn’t be that bad.

Students with posters welcome new arrivals to Peddie

Students welcome new arrivals to campus during POCO.

After my mother and I drove up to Annenberg Hall and checked in, we were instructed to head up to the third floor to meet with the teacher who would be my advisor at Peddie. I nervously knocked on the office door of Mr. Yuan Gao. He introduced himself and told me he taught all levels of Chinese. I was startled for a brief moment. Why would my advisor, the teacher dedicated to making my life at Peddie great, be a Chinese teacher when I didn’t even plan to take Chinese?

Faculty member Yuan Gao

Mr. Gao

It wasn’t long until his warmth and kindness allowed me to understand exactly why.

Almost right away, Mr. Gao helped me to feel at home at Peddie. After that meeting, all my concerns and doubts about my new school vanished. He gave me the strength to be outgoing and introduce myself to new people.

Through his advisory, I’ve met some of my most amazing friends and incredible teachers that truly care about my life – my whole life, not just my classes. At the center is Mr. Gao. We meet at least once each month just to talk; Mr. Gao takes an interest in my friends, clubs, sports and classes. I feel comfortable talking to him about anything, any matter in or out of the classroom. If I have any concerns, problems or predicaments, Mr. Gao is always there to support me. He cares about his advisees deeply and helps us every step of the way.

The advisor program has been one of the most important aspects of my experience at Peddie. It has provided me with a guardian, who listens, assists and cares for me and helps manage any worries I may have about my life here. The program, and my advisor, in particular, shows me that my school values my life as a teenager, not just my performance as a student. Peddie prides itself on being a community, a place where life lessons are equally as important as school lessons. Mr. Gao has made this school feel like home to me, and I’m incredibly grateful for his support.

I can now say that after my excessive and unnecessary worries about my new school last year, I love where I am with my new friends at the greatest school in the world. And it’s all because Mr. Gao gave me the courage to get to where I am today.

Note about the Peddie advisor program: As part of the advisor program, advisee groups gather for monthly meals and have group discussions about happenings on campus and current events. Students also meet one-on-one with their advisor to talk about all aspects of life, and advisors serve as advocates for their advisees.

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