Written by: Misheel Enkhbat, Henry Siu, Zoe Weisner, Emily Yao and Stephanie Zhang
Mental health therapist Erin Keplinger provides more than just typical counseling services to the students. While working at schools in San Mateo and Foster City, the Palo Alto native has gained the trust of many teenagers under her guidance.
She maintains her success as a therapist by attempting to empathize with her students. Her focus is on being as accommodating as possible when she works. “In this profession I feel that I can help people find solutions to their problems,” Keplinger said.
Keplinger teaches various methods of coping in the Therapeutic Elective Component (TEC) class, an elective course which aids students in changing the way they view unpleasant situations in their lives. “Since students learn in many different ways I try to make my teaching as interactive as possible,” Keplinger said. “Just like learning anything else, practice is key.”
According to Keplinger, skills taught in the course include help students focus on regulating their emotions, improving communication skills and change destructive behavior.
Xin Yue Gong
New library assistant Xin Yue Gong’s journey from China to the United States eventually led her to this campus. However, throughout her travels, one constant she had in her life was her love for the library.
Gong grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Beijing, China. When she was fifteen, her family moved to Canada where she grew up as an only child. In school, Gong focused her studies on computer science and math. “High school was a blur for me,” Gong said. “But I remember that I always enjoyed our Library very much.”
To Gong, the library is an enjoyable tight communal area. “Seeing everyone in a library and be a part of a big connected group is really rewarding,” Gong said. She is now using her love of the library for her career.
Gong has interned at many libraries including the East Palo Alto Library and Stanford Education library. According to Gong, however, she enjoys being at Gunn the most. “I just love to see this place being filled up,” Gong said. “It does not matter what you’re here to do, but the library just becomes a very lively place and a community living room for Gunn students.”
Most people may know Assistant Athletic Director Brien Arakaki as the diving coach or athletic trainer, but Arakaki has taken on many new responsibilities in his latest role this year.
“I help the current athletic director (AD)/admin be the medium between athletes and coaches,” he said. “I work hand-in-hand with Sarah [Stapp] to make sure all sports run smoothly. We make sure each team get the requested facilities, proper coverage and most of the time, schedule the best officials.”
Arakaki’s other jobs have helped prepare him for his new job. “The roles of athletic trainer and Athletic Director actually follow along [a] very similar [path] in administrative work,” he said. “The paperwork is the same so everything that I already have to do is already there.”
Regardless of his daunting schedule, Arakaki is determined make positive changes. “My biggest goal this year is to not only to assist with the current AD, Sarah Stapp, and the administrative staff, but also help build the Gunn High School Athletic Program, as well as to keep the current coaches and student-athletes happy,” he said.
Ever since she was in high school, guidance counselor Jessica Oei knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to helping students. After graduating with an English major from the University of Southern California, Oei decided to pursue her love for student-teacher interaction in Hungary, where she taught for two years. Later, she returned to Los Angeles, where she taught English.
Through teaching, Oei rekindled her love for aiding students. Oei, however, ultimately decided to leave teaching behind to pursue counseling full time.
Although the counseling process seems arduous, for Oei, the results of her hard work make it worth it. “Helping my students, making them feel comfortable and supporting them while they navigate through school is definitely one of the most rewarding factors of counseling,” she said. Oei also enjoyes helping the foreign exchange students here, “It’s fun to see new students from around the world come into our school and be accepted, and to see them make friends,” Oei said. So far, Oei is enjoying her time in her new environment. “There’s a lot of energy in high school, especially here,” she said. “Students are very motivated and want to get a good education.”
This year, the school is welcoming Speech Therapist Kim Hales as a new member of the staff. Hales, however, is no newcomer to dealing with students. “I have worked with small children before, but I haven’t worked with high school students before and I thought it would be fun,” Hales said.
As speech therapist, Hales helps students who have language problems and works on campus Mondays and Fridays. Hales lived in New York and has worked throughout the Palo Alto Unified School District for a few years before accepting a job on campus. As far as first impressions go, Hale’s first impression was a good one. “I love Gunn,” Hales said. “All the teachers have been really nice and the students are great.”
When she’s not working, Hales enjoys traveling and being outdoors. “I like to travel around the world, go scuba diving, hiking and just [seeing] the world,” Hales said. So far, Hales is enjoying her time at Gunn and is excited for the rest of the year. “I love how everybody has a lot of spirit and gets so excited while having fun all at the same time,” Hales said.
Therapist for the Visually Impaired Laila Adle experienced a sense of déjà vu when she became a part of the school’s staff. For the Gunn alumnus, the school felt foreign but familiar at the same time. “Parking in the staff parking lot is weird for me,” she said jokingly.
According to Adle, her original plans of becoming an art therapist completely changed when she was assigned to teach art to a preschool classroom with visually impaired and blind students. She not only overcame the challenging nature of her job, but learned to love it. “It was really fun and I wanted to spend the whole day with [the students],” she said.
Now, Adle works closely with students who are visually impaired to ensure that they have access to the resources they need. “For some students, I make sure they have large-print books or technology that allows them to access the board,” she said. “For other kids, I teach them more specific skills, like reading Braille.”
Adle’s goals for the school year are making sure she knows all 20 of her students and addressing all of their needs. “I hope that by the time school ends, my students will feel like they had a successful school year,” she said.