Four years ago, Tyler Tan had just finished up his middle school experience when he and his family attended Cheshire High School’s Graduation Ceremony.
There, on the podium, was Tan’s older sister, Jessica, being recognized as the valedictorian of the CHS Class of 2018 .
“When she made the speech, I wanted to carry on the legacy and hopefully be up there one day,” reflected Tan.
After countless hours spent in and out of the classroom, he earned the chance to live out his dream. Like his sister before him, Tan finished first in his CHS class and got to address the crowd during Wednesday’s graduation ceremony.
“It has been on my mind during high school,” said Tan, who holds a 5.007 grade point average. “There is a lot of tough competition in my grade, so I didn’t know if I would adjust to the high school rigor and course load. Midway through sophomore year, I thought that I could do this (be valedictorian).”
Tan officially learned of his status during the Senior Awards Convocation on May 24. At the end of the ceremony, CHS Principal Dr. Mary Gadd announced Tan and Vincent Zhu as the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.
“It was nice to be honored there,” stated Tan. “I’m glad that my classmates were supportive that day.”
Tan and Zhu shared many of the same classes. They also worked together on the Science Bowl Team.
“He is really smart and intelligent, so I’m not surprised that he is number two,” said Tan. “A lot of people look up to him in class.”
After sharing the spotlight with Zhu, Tan looked forward to informing his sister about the valedictorian news.
“It gets pretty competitive sometimes for us,” stated Tan. “She was proud, but said that, ‘You are still not better than me. I set the path for you and you should be grateful for me.’”
Tan said that he appreciated his sister’s advice on how to navigate high school.
“She told me to manage my time well and don’t leave things to the last minute,” recalled Tan. “She also suggested to try not to pick up too many clubs and things that you can’t handle.”
He is also thankful for his parent’s support along the way.
“I was overwhelmed in my sophomore year and wasn’t doing as well by my standards,” reflected Tan. “My parents were super-understanding of where I was coming from. They trusted me to figure it out.”
Tan has balanced his academic prowess with a passion for music. A violinist since age 5, he has performed with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America and National YoungArts Foundation, as well as the The Juilliard School Pre-College Program.
Amidst his busy schedule, Tan feels that music has been a relaxing activity. On his mother’s advice, he always plays before going to bed.
“I always want to take time to practice violin because I can get a good night’s sleep and get my mind off things,” explained Tan.
Since he traveled to New York City on Saturdays to study at Juilliard, Tan found that it was helpful to get his school work done first.
“I eventually figured out a way to manage my time,” reflected Tan.
Tan found that he had more spare time this year and chose to join the CHS boys’ tennis program. In doing so, he became the third tennis player in the last four years to be named CHS valedictorian. Yasin Tarabar earned the distinction in 2019 and Ryan Shan was last year’s honoree.
“I don’t know why so many valedictorians have been on the tennis team,” reflected Tan. “I knew Ryan and Yasin before I joined the team.”
“It is a privilege and an honor for those guys (valedictorians) to take time off from their studies to try another interest,” said Cheshire boys’ tennis head coach Nan Cunningham. “We have a high standard of kids, who rarely have academic issues. We don’t have a big bench, so we need everyone to be at their best at everything.”
In his first season as an athlete, Tan immediately became a starting singles player.
“I wish that I had joined in previous years, but I didn’t have time with the other stuff I was doing,” reflected Tan.
In the classroom, Tan names statistics as his favorite subject.
“When I took AP stats with Mr. (Kevin) Faggella, the class was really interesting to me because of how it applied real-life data in a meaningful way,” explained Tan. “It wasn’t the most challenging course, but it forced you to think outside the box.”
He also enjoyed taking AP Language and Composition with Ian Wildermann.
“I don’t like to pick favorites, but I think he was my favorite (teacher) because he cares for students and makes sure that you get all of the help you need to create a collaborative environment,” said Tan. “In my class, he made sure that we helped each other to improve.”
Tan believes that it was helpful for him to challenge himself in the English class.
“I think it pushed me to take extra time in crafting my responses,” reflected Tan. “I wasn’t as gifted like in other subjects. Sometimes, I would go after school and do Google Meet to find things that I could improve on.”
For clubs, Tan was involved with Science Bowl, Math League, and Young Democrats, as well as the National Honor Society and the National Science Honor Society (treasurer). Additionally, he served as vice president of a tutoring club.
“I didn’t think that I would be a good teacher when I started. I hadn’t thought of how to deal with kids before,” recalled Tan. “As I’ve learned from teaching young violinists, it is fun to think of new ways to explain things. If they (students) are not getting it, you need to move on or come back to things later.”
Along with joining his sister as a valedictorian, Tan will also be following in her footsteps to the Ivy League. While Jessica is currently studying at the University of Pennsylvania, Tyler has chosen to attend Yale University in the fall.
Tan didn’t decide upon Yale until he visited the campus for Bulldog Days, a program for admitted students and their families.
“I originally thought that the school was too close to home. I also thought that the school might be too elitist or not have what I wanted, but when I went there, the people are so diverse and are very supportive of each other,” recalled Tan. “There is competitiveness, but it is not like they are cutting each other’s throats.”
He feels that the college system fosters a sense of community.
“My mom works two minutes away from Yale, but it (the campus) still feels isolated from New Haven,” stated Tan. “It is convenient to be close to home if I need anything, too.”
Tan plans to join the orchestra at Yale, but doesn’t want to focus on music as a career at this point. He is leaning toward majoring in computer science, but doesn’t want to commit too early.
“I’m still undecided because I don’t know what each major has to offer,” explained Tan. “I’m going into freshman year open-minded and want to try to take as many classes as possible to have a good range.”
While looking forward to the next chapter, Tan knows that he is going to miss his Cheshire classmates.
“We have been through a lot together with things like COVID,” reflected Tan. “We love to support and cheer for each other’s successes.”
Tan feels that he has made some of his of closest friends over the last year. He enjoys the collective atmosphere in his class.
“We have become one giant dysfunctional family and are now going to be moving on to other things,” stated Tan.