Wang Gang expresses gratitude for GT teacher through celebratory merchandise


Shivi Sharma

CHS9 GT Geometry and Algebra II teacher Michael Wang speaks with parents during the CHS9 Spring Showcase in January. Wang’s 2018-19 students created Wang Gang to celebrate his unique teaching style with merchandise.

Akhila Gunturu, Staff Writer

“As the year went on, they’re just like ‘OK, Mr. Wang describes the four transformations as moving it to the left, moving it to the right, moving it to the up, and moving it to the down’,” CHS9 GT Geometry and Algebra II teacher Michael Wang said. “It’s just a bunch of tiny little quirks like that, so I’ve made a very safe place for a lot of [students] to be expressive of the traits that unfortunately, adults around them have told them ‘you need to suppress because we don’t like that’.”

These sorts of quirks resulted in what was originally a first-semester joke in Wang’s 2018-19 GT Geometry class to an ongoing, thriving group of students known as Wang Gang. 

“Wang Gang is a group of students who really enjoy the way Mr. Wang teaches and have high amounts of respect for him,” CHS9 student Samhith Komatreddy said. “It’s not really meant to be anything crazy or anything but it’s a fun name that we came up with, and as GT students, we kind of formed a community that’s closely knit with Mr. Wang.” 

Wang Gang features a series of Wang memorabilia first sold at the end of the spring semester of the 2018-19 school year by current CHS sophomores Poojitha Diggikar and Amshu Pudhota. Diggikar and Pudhota asked other students about whether they would be interested in buying shirts with “Wang Gang” printed across them, and the idea quickly spread, with the shirts being priced at enough to cover the costs of making them. 

Now, the notion of Wang Gang merchandise has blossomed into a new design, hoodies, a 3D printed Wang head and even a video game called Wang Wars, modeled off a retro version of Nintendo Super Smash Bros, all led by Komatreddy and several other students. 

“There is a different level of dedication that Mr. Wang has that a lot of teachers don’t,” Komatreddy said. “He spends countless hours trying to make good lesson plans for us. The [design] process was actually to honor Mr. Wang by creating things and learning a lot from him in an interactive way.” 

Wang’s popularity comes from his own experiences as a twice-exceptional GT student with a learning disability. Twice-exceptional is defined as being identified as GT, but also facing learning disabilities such as dyslexia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. 

“I’m autistic, so how it manifested is I had a really hard time working with a lot of teachers,” Wang said. “I did, a few times in middle school, straight up yell at my teachers. I had a very different sense of ethics and moral codes, and English was impossible. I remember just how boring everything was when I went through high school.”

Wang channels these experiences while teaching GT students today. When students show signs of facing similar situations, where they understand the content extremely quickly to the point it becomes boring, Wang embraces it. 

“Traditional teaching is kind of like the pitcher and the catcher, and the knowledge is the baseball,” Wang said. “The teacher’s the pitcher and the teacher is doing most of the aiming. The catcher is the student. They have to move a little bit because the teacher’s not perfect. GT, it’s more of like the student is the pinball, the classroom is the pinball machine, and all of the points you’re scoring is the knowledge you’re getting, and I’m just sitting there watching the pinball go. So I let most of them do what they want, to a certain degree. I’m not going to tell them, ‘this is what you have to think.’ I say, ‘show me how you get to the answer’ and then I adjust from there.” 

This sort of expression and creativity in the classroom was directed into Wang Gang, as Wang Wars, the video game, was the result of a project in Wang’s classroom for students to explore what they were interested in. Komatreddy and a group of other students decided to make a game to expand their coding and engineering abilities, along with a 3D printed Wang head to learn about 3D rendering. 

In his free time, Wang enjoys watching YouTube and anime and playing board games, particularly European style board games. American style board games include games such as Sorry!, Scrabble, Uno and Monopoly, and value luck as one of the most important factors involved in winning. European style board games, such as Ticket to Ride, The Settlers of Catan and Dominion, require more skill, and while luck remains an important factor, the player’s skill is what ultimately determines the victory. 

“I really like [European-style games] because they’re really good for actual critical thinking, because you really have to think about multiple things going on,” Wang said. “There’s a lot of intense critical thinking here. I’m actually trying my best to work them into my curriculum in some way because they’re really good with/for math too.” 

This year’s Wang Gang plans to continue the shirt tradition by ordering the shirts and presenting them towards the end of the school year. 

“Mr. Wang is an extremely dedicated teacher,” Komatreddy said. “At a personal level, you really can trust him and learn from him in a way that [you] enjoy. He makes us feel like we’re something to be cared about.” 


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