By Susie Fordi ’18 & Henry Shifrin ’21
By being not only the toughest mathematics teacher at Gunston, but also the associate international student coordinator and mentor for many students who have come to Gunston from China and beyond, Weixing Shepardson (known better to students as “Mrs. Shep”) has made a deep impression on the Gunston community.
Weixing Shepardson (“Mrs. Shep”) was born in Beijing amid a cultural revolution. Her father, a stern and disciplined man, taught her that science and technology were the keys to success. He allowed her to learn for herself, and encouraged her to read her own textbooks. Mrs. Shep believes this educational upbringing is what allowed her and her sister to beat the odds and be accepted into college. She has always had a love of learning and teaching and knew from an early age that education was a career that she wanted to pursue.
Weixing Shepardson and Mr. Lewis during the bricklaying ceremony.
“My teachers said I was born to be a teacher. That’s why for my whole life I’ve never left school. I’ve gone from student to teacher to student to teacher,” says Mrs. Shep.
Mrs. Shep obtained both a bachelor’s and masters’ degree from Capitol Normal University in Beijing, China, and began teaching as soon as she graduated. In 1998, after many years of teaching high school in China, Mrs. Shep decided to come to America and pursue a degree in statistics at the University of Massachusetts. Even after this degree, Mrs. Shep knew she wanted to continue teaching. After one year in the public school system in Talbot County, Mrs. Shep applied to Gunston. She was thrilled to be able to teach in her own style and found that the students learned well in a more intense setting. While the freedom to develop her own teaching style is what drew Mrs. Shep in, she stayed for the community that she found.
“That’s why I stayed at Gunston. The parents, the teachers, and the students; they all accept who I am. When I come to the United States, Gunston is my second family,” said Mrs. Shep. “Young people have unlimited potential. They are like a sponge. That's how I view my students. Eventually, if I squeeze hard enough, something will come out.”
International student lunch at Mrs. Shep's house, circa 2015.
“Generations of Gunston students have reported to me how grateful they are to Mrs. Shep, as she unlocked the mysteries of mathematical thinking for them. Every school has legendary teachers, and Mrs. Shep is perhaps our most legendary: the extra help hours she offers to students, her unyielding belief in each student’s ability to achieve, and in the end, the pride she takes in their results. She’s the kind of teacher who helps students to realize that there is more inside of themselves than they ever realized,” said Gunston’s Head of School, John Lewis.
“For two decades, Weixing has also been a special touchstone for international students as they navigate the extraordinary journey from the Far East to the Eastern Shore. She has provided endless counsel and priceless bridges to understanding, translation, and cultural insight. Over the years, she’s been one of our most dedicated host parents, supporting the growth and development of dozens of international students. For me, my most memorable experience with Mrs. Shephardson was the two weeks we spent together in China, visiting our international families. As we went from city to city, region to region, and meal to meal—she was an invaluable guide, interpreter, and cuisine explainer. Here is the main thing I learned about her in China: Ms. Shep is Ms. Shep—whether she’s in China or the United States. Among students and parents from both the United States and China, she’s seen as incredibly bright, funny and loving, and a revered and relentlessly dedicated teacher of Mathematics. I can’t tell you how much we will miss her,” Lewis commented.
Rongje (Rose) Fan ’18, pictured right.
Rongje (Rose) Fan ’18 said “Thank you for your education and care for all students and all international students! Words cannot describe our feelings of gratitude. Thank you for so many years of quiet support. There are elderly people in your family, but we are still the first priority. I learned kindness from you. Whether in terms of school or growing up, you supported me every step of the way and gave me guidance.”
“I miss Mrs. Shepardson so much, and her kindness, perseverance, and humor have always inspired generations of Gunston students like me,” said Haorui (Davey) Song ’19.
(L-R) Kejing (Karen) Chen, Haorui (Davy) Song, Weixing, Fuji (Cynthia) Yang, Sitong (Vicky) Zhou.
Long-time colleague and friend Mr. Mike Clemens (who also teaches Math at Gunston) has known Mrs. Shep for more than two decades. “I met Weixing about 25 years ago, as we both taught at St. Michaels (at different times.) I have worked with her at Gunston for 19 years. Her passion, drive, love and humor are surpassed by few people that I have met. I will miss hearing her teach from my room. You can always tell that she is into every class she teaches.”
Alumnus Shuai (Bob) Tong recalls “I still remember going to your house to celebrate the holidays and wrap dumplings together. It was really an extraordinary feeling. [...] Overall, being able to have someone like a "mother" abroad made us feel so warm. While living in a foreign country, we were able to feel like we were at home.”
A dedication from the 2018 yearbook summarizes nicely the deep impact Mrs. Shep has had on the Gunston community: “Every math problem she conscientiously assigns and meticulously corrects, every genial yet humorous “Eh-you” sound she makes, and every joke she unflaggingly tells, shall be appreciated by the Gunston community. Mrs. Shep bestowed her wisdom of mathematics upon generations of students and turned arcane, abstract concepts and formulas into vivid, intriguing knowledge. More importantly, as a global citizen and the epitome of internaliality and diversity in Gunston, the unique cultural experience she offers us is so rich and we believe that her passion for teaching will tug at our heartstrings forever more.”
(left to right) Traditional Hotpot dinner with Yongah (Jonathan) Choi, Weixing, Xuanyao (Henry) Feng, Qirui (Allen) Wang, Hyunseok (Luke) Lee, and Deborah Turner from the Cambridge Network.