Yim steps down as Math Club adviser

September 8, 2016 — by Jay Kim and Michael Zhang
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Math teacher PJ Yim

After eight years of supervising and building the school’s math club into a national-level powerhouse, math teacher PJ Yim has stepped down from his role as the club’s adviser.

After eight years of supervising and building the school’s math club into a national-level powerhouse, math teacher PJ Yim has stepped down from his role as the club’s adviser. He has been replaced by special education aide Michael Silva.

“[As a math club adviser], there were a lot of times when I actually had to sacrifice the time,” Yim said. “I had to deal with my three children, be a husband and make myself available to the students in my classroom, but I was a little upset I couldn’t do all that.”

Despite sacrificing time with his family, Yim only received a small stipend last year and no extra pay in the seven years before that. In addition, he feels more comfortable stepping down because there is more incentive for other teachers to take over.

Throughout his years, Yim changed the math club from an exclusive, rigorous group to a more inclusive community. Initially, most of the club consisted of students from the Mathematical Olympiad Program (MOP), a selective camp that trained students to represent the U.S. at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). The small club was successful, but many other students found it too daunting to join.

When Yim found out that members had been leaving out of the fear of falling behind, he gradually changed the math club community so that they would feel more welcomed, and that prospective members wouldn’t be  intimidated by the club’s rigor and fast-paced lectures.

“I decided that we can’t lose [new members] so I told everybody that there were certain phrases [they couldn’t] use, such as ‘this is easy,’” Yim said. “I wanted to make [math club] more approachable and more accessible to anyone who wanted to come, so I tried to make the open environment where kids could come, drop in and study.”

Having put his stamp on the math club, Yim now hands off the club management to Silva.

This year, Silva, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a degree in mathematics and teaching, intends to keep the club on its trajectory.

Silva also said he is discussing with the members about connecting the math club with the new tutoring center in the library. He intends for the club to help out the school, as well as be open to even more members.

Although the math club was lucky enough to find a qualified adviser, the club’s student leadership still expects to face new challenges that come with the change in advisers.

“[Yim leaving] means that all the accommodations that we took for granted previously such as room access, printing and encouragement are suddenly gone,” said junior Aayush Gupta, the club’s vice president.

Luckily, Silva was able to gain use of Calculus teacher Jennifer Mantle’s room to hold their regular meetings, said senior Albert Tseng, the club’s president.

Yim will continue to help teach the math club at Redwood Middle School, but by letting go of this job, he will have more freedom in his schedule.

“I don’t have any regrets about my decision, but I do have some sense of bittersweetness as I planned on doing this for 20 years,” Yim said. “I thought I have been unfair to [my own children], so for a while, I will let go of that responsibility.”

 
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