AP Environmental Science teacher Florence Pi will not be teaching next year and instead will take a break to travel in Africa.
Pi has been teaching for five years at Harvard-Westlake, four of which were spent teaching biology at the Middle School. Last year marked her first year teaching AP Environmental Science at the upper school.
Pi had been thinking about traveling previously, but she believes next year the timing is right.
“I’ve always told my kids to try different things and what they’re interested in, and follow their passions,” Pi said. “I just felt like it was time for me to be doing the same thing.”
Pi wants to focus on visiting African countries that are less developed and have very few tourists and commericial areas.
“I want to road-trip all of Mozambique, and I want to hopefully snorkel and scuba dive with whale sharks along the coast,” Pi said. “I’m going to try to go to Madagascar as well. And just recently, I think I’m going to try to go to Angola because it is still relatively dangerous and hard to get to, so I’m trying to go in there and explore.”
Pi has been to Africa before and is excited to go back and experience the countries again.
Pi used to live in South Africa as a teenager.
“Five years ago, right before I came to Harvard-Westlake, actually, I traveled through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya on a road trip,” Pi said. “I camped and road tripped for six weeks.”
Harvard-Westlake students have made a big impression on her over the past few years, she said.
“They have definitely been the best part of working here,” Pi said. “I enjoy them so much. Every year I’m like, ‘I don’t know? Am going to love them as much as I did last year? Last year was pretty darn great.’ And every year, it is just a very fun time for me to work with them and get to know them well.”
Gwynn Pollard ’15 had Pi as a teacher this year and believes Pi is a great teacher in the way that she is able to connect with her students like a friend.
“She really inspired her students to try and make the world into something better,” Pollard said. “She deserves all the best adventures in the world.”
With her adventures in Africa, Pi hopes that she will inspire students to do something similar and take risks.
“I think that the kids here have so much potential,” Pi siad. “You guys are super driven, accomplished and capable. You have your whole life ahead of you to settle down and get a good job and do whatever you think you’re supposed to be doing. For now, take a year, take a week, take a weekend and do something else that interests you.”
One of Pi’s AP Environmental Science students Riya Garg ’15 said that she supports of her teacher’s decision.
“Ms. Pi is really passionate when it comes to teaching her students so I’m really proud that she’s following her own advice and taking time off work to travel the world and do what she loves best,” Garg said.