A Tribute to Addie Wang
by Susanne Saunders and Sally Selby

A Tribute to Addie Wang

A self-professed hardliner with the softest of hearts, Addie has the sharpest mind of anyone I know. When she switched from the practice of law to the art of education at Lower School, she brought a discerning eye to all things academic. She was seldom the first to speak in meetings, but when she did, everyone listened. Her inclination to challenge quick assumptions and ask deeper questions was a huge plus as a teacher. She had a knack for conveying high standards to students while couching her expectations in irresistible investigations and novel tasks. Both as a generalist in our 3-4 homeroom and as Lower School’s math coordinator, her insightful perspective on students and her meticulous construction of lessons was a given.

Along with her acuity, it was Addie’s humor, wit and tolerance for purposeful mayhem that made her a headliner in the classroom. Her students soon came to see she was built for fun as well as rigor. She intuitively understood that kids love the roll of the die, the gleeful surprise.  The ancient history simulations we developed involved much suspenseful opening of envelopes, hilarious role requirements and a chance to grandstand to great effect. Whether offering to hallucinate as the Oracle of Delphi or auditioning to be the purest sheep available for sacrifice to Apollo, students reveled in the roles she devised. Whatever the lesson, Addie offered clear guidance and then stepped aside to let her students take center stage.

Addie’s willingness to go for broke on any occasion set the bar for others.  She wrote fabulous music and lyrics for our many class productions and gamely teetered across high wires during yearly camping trips. She even battled a sizeable case of acrophobia to drive students across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. On her first attempt, a fourth-grade tenor in the passenger seat had the honor of singing her across the high span.

Saying goodbye to good times is always hard.  The admiration Addie’s students felt for her was clear, their connection unmistakable. Ditto for her teaching partner. Given the context of our usual frolics, it seemed like a no-brainer to slip festive paper bags over our heads during Lower School closing ceremonies. We knew we’d inevitably lose it when our 4th graders sang, “I will bring you a branch of May.” For Addie’s goodbye, we’ll need a much bigger bag. I expect many hands would volunteer to decorate it, many voices would ring out to sing her home.

After 14 years at the Lower School, the Middle School welcomed Addie to the 7/8 Math teaching ranks with open arms.  She quickly showed that the standards she had set in grades 3-4 would come with her to her 7/8 classroom, and the mix of her tough and thorough teaching and her wicked sense of humor quickly cemented her popularity with the older kids.  Famous for both her challenging tests and her zany Jeopardy games, the students who left her class were well prepared for Upper School math, although I often passed her room and spotted her working with former students as she helped them navigate the challenges of their upper-level courses.

Addie’s commitment to the students she taught and advised was fierce and unwavering.  She worked through thorny issues with dedication, and she stayed in touch with parents and other teachers to be sure that they were getting the help they needed.  Her written reports captured the students that she wrote about, and she worked with dedication through the placement issues that came up every spring.

Addie embraced Middle School life, planning Minimesters and serving on committees to help round out the experiences of kids in our division of the School.  And of course, it was always a treat to find her platter of baked goods ready to help us work more productively through meetings and to see her beautiful peonies grace the office in the spring.

I know that her students and her Middle School colleagues will miss her terribly, but I also know that Addie will enjoy the flexibility of spending time with her grandbaby, in her kitchen, and in her garden.