Coming Back Home: Ms. Eriksen and Mr. Cheung
June 18, 2022
The most interesting thing about having teachers who are West High alumni is that they once stood exactly where we stand today. They were a part of the same clubs, had the same teachers, and got excited for the same rallies and dances that we did. Mr. Carsten Cheung and Ms. Stefanie Eriksen were no exception.
Mr. Cheung was a part of West High’s class of 1999. In school, he was a part of both Key Club and Interact. He was taught by teachers such as Ms. Dulaney, Ms. Sprague, and Coach Holt, among others. Similarly, Ms. Eriksen was involved in extracurriculars such as Drill Team. Because she only graduated about 10 years ago, the majority of her teachers ― such as Ms. Secura, Mrs. White, and Mrs. Dugard ― continue to teach to this day. Although she had once felt difficulty coming to West as a teacher not long after graduation, she felt that her years as a substitute played a large role in how she was viewed among her now co-workers.
Although neither teacher noticed many internal changes, they believe the majority of advancements at West occurred as a part of shifts in generations and culture. The biggest catalyst in the changing culture was the development of technology and social media. According to Ms. Eriksen, Instagram was released in her senior year, 2010. Instagram changed the way that school organizations such as clubs and sports interacted with each other. She explained that her high school years were “the transition time for modern technology.” Students once had to “talk to a lot of different people to figure out how to be involved. Now, kids can participate in more extracurriculars.” Social media made the campus more interconnected, opening activities to many more students and allowing them to get to know different types of people.
Mr. Cheung also credited technology for the way that it has shaped our current student body. He named the development of media culture as the cause of the growth of political activism in our generation. He praised Generation Z’s awareness of social issues, especially regarding mental health since it has become a much more prevalent topic than it was during his school years, saying: “This new generation is more aware and more accepting, and it’s more okay to ask for help.” He noted that many of these issues may be a result of the increased social and academic pressures that students faced today.
West’s accommodation of both changing generational cultures and the maintenance of school tradition proves the school’s ability to both grow and maintain continuity. Teachers make the school a place where students are not only able to maintain high standards of excellence, but receive what they need to succeed. There is no doubt that the faculty keeps West great and will continue to shape West in the years to come.