Mr. Kan steps from classroom to courtroom

Mr. Gary Kan – Mr. Thomas Stambaugh

Mr. Gary Kan, an Upper School Chinese teacher of seven years, will depart the school community to pursue a career in law. For the past year, Mr. Kan has been taking night classes at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law while teaching during the day. Now, Mr. Kan will study law full time.

     As it turns out, Mr. Kan is a talented law student and, as he explains to his students, his learning is aided by the fact that he has experience in education. He has qualified for a variety of internships both at “Big Law” firms in Philadelphia and smaller, yet more competitive, ones in New York City. Mr. Kan explained that he took an internship this summer in the latter option.

     “I want to know what it’s like to work in New York,” Mr. Kan said. “It’s a much bigger pool.”

     Mr. Kan also pointed out the value of internships.

     “Internships are important in law school because your second summer internship, not this summer but next summer, they are important because it can lead to your real job,” Mr. Kan said. “What gets you to your second summer internship is your first summer internship, so this one is also important.”

     With Mr. Kan’s devotion to teaching and to helping others, it is no surprise his internship follows the same path.        

     “My internship is related to security. The firm helps the small people sue the big companies,” Mr. Kan said.

     While Mr. Kan is not yet certain of which path of law he will decide to practice, he knows where he wants to go. 

     “I’ve come to see if you want to make a change that has momentum behind it, you must be moving to the top,” Mr. Kan said. “You can move up there knowing that you can have a much bigger impact. If not, I have seen people with noble opinions shot down because they are not important, … and that sucks… being undermined because they don’t hold some big fancy title.”

“It is very important to serve humanity.”

Mr. Gary Kan

     Mr. Kan is clear about his intention to practice law.

     “I think it is very important to serve humanity,” Mr. Kan said. “That is why I was a teacher for eleven years.” 

     Students feel that Mr. Kan has been one of the most thoughtful and provoking teachers that they have had.

     Sixth Form advisee Yeshwin Sankuratri, said, “From the moment we stepped into his classroom as a curious freshman and left as prepared seniors, his class always revolved around keeping an open mind to all perspectives. We were taught to look deeper into complex patterns to find its utter simplicity and convenience, to see only the substance amidst decorations, to comprehend a ‘bad’ world view as simply a ‘view,’ and to feel Chinese through all of our knowledge rather than tackle it with a guess.”

     Fifth Form Chinese student and advisee Kieran Dias-Lalcaca, said, “I found it really rewarding to be able to understand the nuances from both an American and a Chinese point of view.”

    Fifth Form Chinese student Carter McCann said “简老师,” as he is affectionately known by his students, “Always taught his class with a sense of professionalism yet with a sense of levity. He was a great teacher in terms of effectively teaching us both the language itself as well as about Chinese culture and history from personal anecdotes or otherwise.”

     Students feel that Mr. Kan’s desire for factual truth and his compassion prepare him well for law.

     Sankuratri said, “Everyone had a voice, and it made our group comfortable with each other. No matter how you finished, once you stepped into that classroom you were a part of our family. 简老师 was a very good listener and his advisory setting definitely opened me up. He never influenced me to think about something a certain way and encouraged everyone to express themselves freely.”

     Dias-Lalcaca said, “He gave us a point of view that was objective and clear and that showed us what the real goal of being a student at Haverford is.”

     Mr. Kan says he will miss taking trips during the summers, some of which were with students to China, and he will miss being able to teach kids “something right.” He jokingly added he will miss the ability “to be always right in the room.”

     This lesser-known comedic side of Mr. Kan will be missed by his students as well. 

     Fifth Form Chinese Student Brian Williams said, “I think what I enjoyed about his class so much was that he could hold a serious class while still having a great sense of humor.”

     Sankuratri said a fitting farewell for the student body: “Till we meet again as one lawyer and a Haverford student alumnus, thank you for everything.”

     McCann concluded, “I don’t believe there’s anything you can’t do, 简老师.”

     谢谢简老师。我们会想你。(Thank you, Mr. Kan. We will miss you.)

Author: Agustin Aliaga '21

Editor-in-Chief Agustin Aliaga has written for The Index since 2018. He previously served as Managing Editor and the paper’s first Academics Editor.