PHS co-valedictorians reflect on an unusual year

Thomas Chu and Sam Eisenbach are co-valedictorians of the Class of 2021

It’s been a year like no other for everyone, but it’s been an especially tough year for high school seniors juggling online school with preparing for their next step. We checked in with the two valedictorians of Piedmont High School, Sam Eisenbach and Thomas Chu, to see how they navigated this year.

At Piedmont High School students had the option to do hybrid or fully-distanced learning. Chu opted for hybrid and Eisenbach was a fully-distanced learner. 

Sam Eisenbach

How did you get through the year?

“My family was very helpful, I had a lot of support from them. I just kinda hunkered down and concentrated on my studies and I tried to hang out with friends as much as possible.”

What kept you focused?

“I tried to connect with the subject matter. For example with AP Art History the subject matter was so interesting and well taught, that it really helped me stay focused. I focused on the subject matter and teachers which were both really great and tried not to focus on the whole COVID situation.

What was the hardest part?

“There was a degree of isolation, even though I saw my classmates’ faces everyday on the Google Meet, it’s not the same as in person. I imagine it was the same for people in hybrid learning as well because they were also seeing everyone less frequently. It was a very isolating year.”

What surprised you about this year?

“How fast it seemed to go. I think, it felt like it took a long time in the moment, but retrospectively it feels like it happened really quickly.”

In twenty years from now what do you think you’ll remember about this year?

“The end of school and in the past few days we had prom, senior sunset with snacks, and we get in person graduation. Overall I’ll remember the end of school and how joyous it was to reconnect with everyone.”

Where are you headed?

“For college I am going to go to UCLA declared as Physics but I’ll probably double major with Math.”

What are you looking forward to?

“Looking forward to meeting new people and exploring those subjects and for hanging out with friends as much as humanly possible this summer.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“To all my classmates, we did it! We got through the year and now we are on the other side and we can put this all behind us.”

Thomas Chu:

How was it being a hybrid learner?

“It was fun to be able to go back to school and see my teachers and classmates in person.” 

How did you get through the year?

“One the things that helped a lot was that the teachers cut us a lot more slack. The teachers definitely tried to understand that school would be more difficult because it was online.”

What kept you focused?

“Probably when the teachers assigned me worksheets that I could complete on my own because when doing worksheets online school was no different than in-person. Doing interactive activities also helped us maintain focus.”

What was the hardest part?

“To be honest, the hardest part was paying attention during classes because it is easy for your mind to drift off while you’re looking at a screen compared to looking at the teacher in person.”

What was the best part?

“Well that’s a bit difficult, but if I were to think of any positive sides to this year it would be that we didn’t have to walk to school. It gave us a lot more time throughout the day and we saved a lot of time by not having to spend so much time getting ready for school. It gave me more time for homework and freetime.”

What surprised you about this year?

“One of the things that surprised me was how loose my habits became in terms of eating and sleeping. This year my eating and sleeping habits became very jumbled and I would often go to sleep super late because I could wake up five minutes before class started. 

In twenty years what do you think you’ll remember from this year?

“In twenty years I’lll probably remember always going to school, or always hopping on Google Meet ten minutes late on Mondays because on Monday lunch ends at 12:20 and on every other day it ends at 12:30.”

Where are you headed?

“UCLA, I’m studying electrical engineering.”

What are you looking forward to?

“I’m looking forward to being able to go to class in person and being able to do things like labs in person again.”

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *