Fifth grade teacher John Yu explains a scientific concept to his students. (Photo courtesy of Yu)

Lower school teacher departs for New York

John Yu, the fifth grade math and science teacher and the lower school science coordinator, is leaving Country Day after seven years and moving to New York.

 To sophomore Lauren Lu, a student of Yu’s during the 2016–17 school year, Yu’s strength as a teacher was his ability to balance discipline with humor.

Lu said Yu incorporated games, like math “Jeopardy!”, to increase student engagement.

Sophomore Andrew Klieger said Yu could explain concepts easily.

“He answered all your questions, and he made it very easy to understand,” Klieger.

Yu helped Klieger become more motivated to learn math by awarding prizes, such as jelly beans, for every question solved correctly. 

The prizes gave Klieger the motivation he needed to focus on learning math.

Head of Lower School Maisae Affour said Yu was passionate about math.

“He made it fun for his students, and he was a master at helping them find connections between math and everyday life,” Affour said. 

According to Yu’s friend and fifth grade humanities teacher Cameron Bohn, Yu’s strengths lie also in his ability to make firm decisions. 

“I think Mr. Yu’s greatest strength is his calm confidence in his decisions. It provides a structure for his students that helps them push themselves while knowing what is coming next without having to guess,” Bohn said in an email.

Bohn influenced Yu’s teaching methods and his projects, including shark dissections.

“She’s my complement. A part of a good partnership is going off of each other’s strengths. Her support has allowed me to be more innovative,” Yu said.

Yu said his two biggest sources of inspiration for his teaching philosophy are the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics and the National Education Association.

“They are always the best nonprofit for advancing education. Aside from the teacher organizations, I also follow current business trends,” Yu said. “The ultimate goal of education is to get some skills that can help you in college and the future.” 

Yu also uses Elon Musk as an inspiration and a source to create his entrepreneurship project.

The project features students working in teams to create and sell a product of their choice to lower school students and parents. Over Yu’s seven years, the project has seen a variety of products, ranging from tie-dye shirts and stress balls.

“I wanted to introduce a business themed project, and it was the only way I could put business into action,” Yu said. “But when it comes to business, there’s a lot of practical math and science applications, as well. Calculating finances and developing a product shares similarities with the field of science.” 

In addition to being a teacher, Yu volunteered and attended lower school committee meetings. 

“If you ask anyone on the team in the lower school, they will attest to what an amazing team player he was,” Affour said.

 “He was always willing to help. He volunteered all the time. He served on the COVID-19 committee. He attends IDEA(Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Association) committee meetings.

“He was a fantastic colleague and we are going to miss him dearly. We wish him all the best,” Affour said.

To Yu, leaving Country Day is like leaving family. 

“All the students, all the teachers and all the administrators are extremely wonderful. One thing that makes independent schools special is the tight-knit community that tends to form and it is evident here,” Yu said.

“Just know that I will absolutely miss this school,” Yu said.

— Ishaan Sekhon

Originally published in the May 24 edition of the Octagon.

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