Meet Ms. Fifer-Payton’s new Mandarin teacher

By Bridget Galibois, Junior Editor-in-Chief

As Payton welcomes the class of 2026 into the building for the first time, it also welcomes a new cohort of teachers. This year, there are 22 new staff members joining the WPCP community! I met with Ms. Fifer, a new Mandarin teacher at Payton to hear her story.

Ms. Fifer was invited by Ms. Xu to be a substitute teacher for Mandarin 3 and 4 until the permanent teacher, Ms. Zha, comes next semester.

The Paw Print: How long have you been in education? What grades and subjects have you taught?
Ms. Fifer: This will be my twelfth year. I’ve taught in high schools most of the time, and I’ve taught languages.

The Paw Print: What led you to choose a career in education?
Ms. Fifer: I want to make an impact. Teachers have helped me through my life. I want to pay it forward, and I want to make an impact on student’s lives.

The Paw Print: Where did you grow up, and where did you go to college?
Ms. Fifer: I grew up in Taiwan, and I finished college [at] Tunghai University. Then I came to the United States, learned English, and was in real estate when [my family] moved here. I started a real estate business [and worked there] for 20 years, until my children grew up. [When they were] in college, I thought it was about time for me to do what I wanted to do, which was going back to school and getting my masters degree in education.

The Paw Print: How do you plan to support students in high school and prepare them for the future?
Ms. Fifer: I think the most important thing for high school students is learning their life skills: using school as a playground to practice how to learn, to practice their social skills, to practice their learning skills to prepare them for their life in general, and of course, through the skill of academic success.

The Paw Print: How do you make sure that every student gets what they need to succeed in the classroom?
Ms. Fifer: It’s important that teacher and student are in sync. Teachers are there to learn as well. The student is learning at the same time that other students [are learning]. There can be a teacher and student relationship if everyone has the same goal: to be here to learn. Each individual is so unique so we look at each person like they’re a unique individual. Of course, the teacher [plays] a big role in that part, making sure to pay attention to each student’s needs.

The Paw Print: What do you believe are the most important challenges that high school students face?
Ms. Fifer: Especially now, I think that high school students have a lot of stress, both internally and externally. When I look at it, externally, we can’t control it. But internally, each one of them can take control of their internal stress.

The Paw Print: What has been your favorite part about Payton so far?
Ms. Fifer: I like the schedule, and I like the students. They are very attentive. Students are externally more relaxed than other schools that I’ve been to.

The Paw Print: What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of school?
Ms. Fifer: Gardening because I look at gardening the same way that I look at my students. Students, just like seeds in the garden, will eventually grow. It just takes time. Some need the shady part, some need the sunny side; each individual student has different needs. I just need to, as a teacher, find out what students need and teach them accordingly.

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