WESTPORT, Conn. — The top two students in the class of 2017 at Staples High School in Westport are Emily Schussheim, valedictorian, and Christopher Scherban, salutatorian.
They will be featured speakers in June: she at the graduation ceremonies, he the night before at the baccalaureate, the school district announced Wednesday.
After attending Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Middle Schools, Schussheim entered Staples “not thinking I’m a math and science person.”
But instructors Joanne Klouda and Robin Sacilotto Hurlbut inspired her.
“They have very different styles of teaching. But they’re both so nice and relatable, and they both love their subjects,” Schussheim said.
She's been motivated, too, by teachers Robert Papp (pre-calculus and multivariable calculus), Ann Neary (English literature) and Kemen Zabala (advanced placement Spanish language).
“Spanish was a really hard-core class, in a good way," said Schussheim.
She has also developed her creative writing interest at the Iowa and Kenyon Young Writers Workshops and has been interested in music since elementary school. She is a principal cellist in the Staples symphonic and chamber orchestras, along with Norwalk Youth Symphony.
Schussheim downplays her valedictorian honor. “Your GPA is just a number. There are so many variables to how people spend their time here.”
As president of the Staples’ Tri-M Music Honor Society, she worked with Bridgeport elementary school students in an enrichment program.
“I really got to see educational inequality,” she said. “I like kids, and I like schools. The stakes are high for everyone.”
She is headed to Yale this fall to study math, physics and the humanities.
Scherban arrived at Staples as a sophomore and got involved in band and the math team, as well as the Mini Maker Faire at the library.
He did not think he was a good English student and credits two teachers with changing that.
Christina Richardson “taught me to read deeply. I failed a couple of quizzes, met with her, and really understood what she expected," Scherban said.
Under Noreen McGoldrick, his writing flourished. He was also influenced by Heather Colletti-Houde’s Myth and Bible class.
Scherban likes the camaraderie of his classes and has been in several study groups.
Outside of Staples, Scherban is assistant principal flutist with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra and has traveled to Italy with that group.
He has served as a counselor at a computer camp and helps senior citizens understand technology.
“Don’t judge a person by grades or SATs," he advises fellow students. “Students should not take classes just for GPAs.”
Scherban loves to read. A major influence on his road to salutatorian was reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” sophomore year.
“It changed my life,” he says. “I stopped freaking out about grades.”
He hopes to major in computer science in college, with a business or humanities emphasis. Then he hopes to start “a real company.”