Top of The Class: Chamblee’s Resident Vals and Sals

Ashika Srivastava, Staff Writer

Richard Von Biberstein: Resident Valedictorian

As the student in the resident class with the highest grade point average (GPA), Richard Von Biberstein (‘21) has been named the Class of 2021’s resident valedictorian, a title he was not expecting.

“I was definitely surprised,” said Von Biberstein. “I think my first reaction was, ‘No, I’m not’ because someone texted me, ‘You’re valedictorian,’ and I was like, ‘No.’ But yeah, I was very surprised. I didn’t think it would be me at all.”

For valedictorians and salutatorians, a rigorous course load is common. Von Biberstein took a mix of AP and dual enrollment classes while at Chamblee.

“Some of my favorite classes were STT (Scientific Tools and Techniques Program at Fernbank), AP Statistics, and my Georgia Tech math classes,” said Von Biberstein. “My course load was pretty specific to math and science. [For humanities,] I kind of took the high level classes like AP World History, and then I dual-enrolled the English and History courses to get college credit.”

Additionally, Von Biberstein was able to maintain a healthy school-life balance through his extracurricular activities.

“When you take a hard course load, your social life kind of takes a hit,” said Von Biberstein. “I found a balance and took extracurriculars that were like my socialization like I did cross country for four years with some good friends of mine. That was really good because I got to hang out with people every day, and then I kind of got that social aspect out of the way. Then I could kind of go home and finish work. It’s a balance. If you really go crazy on academics, it’s harder to have a social life. It’s harder to keep that balance. No one’s going to be able to do it all.”

Keeping up with schoolwork in the virtual classroom was difficult for many students, and Chamblee’s vals and sals were no exception. Now in person, Von Biberstein finds his learning experience to be much better than when he was virtual.  

“I do well in a class where I can work with my friends,” said Von Biberstein. “ I learn from other people pretty well, and I don’t think I did as well learning like virtually. I think it was a lot harder [because] the hardest part, virtually, is to keep yourself structured to get work done. [So] I’m glad that I’m back at school now. I think that it’s good for me.”

Von Biberstein shares some advice for those who are looking to work towards becoming valedictorian.

“If you go into high school wanting to be a valedictorian, the easiest way to do it is just to take dual enrollment classes over the summer,” said Von Biberstein. “You’ll be above everyone else before they know it. Essentially, GPA is just the game of who takes the most classes, the most APs, the most dual enrollment classes. So that’d be my advice: take dual enrollment over the summer.”

Von Biberstein will be majoring in Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology this fall.

Molly Silverman: Resident Salutatorian

Photo courtesy of Molly Silverman

Molly Silverman (‘21) is the second resident salutatorian of the resident class of 2021 and was pleasantly surprised when she heard the news from a friend.

“I was watching a lacrosse game when my friend, who was sitting with me, yelled my name and screamed, ‘You’re salutatorian!’  I yelled back, ‘There’s no way, really?’” said Silverman. “I was so surprised because I didn’t realize my GPA was even good enough to compete for val or sal. After the initial shock, I was then extremely proud of myself because I’ve worked so hard for my grades throughout high school, and it finally felt like all of it was paying off.”

During her time at Chamblee, Silverman took on a difficult course load with several AP classes that she appreciated.

“I’ve mostly taken all of the classes people normally take, some being AP World History, AP U.S. History, and Anatomy,” said Silverman. “However, I took AP Biology my junior year, and it taught me a lot about work ethic, and I’m really thankful for that. It was a very demanding class, especially on top of other hard classes that you take during junior year. It forced me to study a ton and figure out successful study habits.”

Throughout the process of choosing classes, Silverman was never too focused on becoming valedictorian or salutatorian.

“I thought about [taking weighted classes to increase my GPA] a little bit, but I never expected the extra weight to cause me to be salutatorian,” said Silverman. “For example, I took a bunch of AP classes hoping it would bump my GPA for college applications, but I never realized that it could lead me to be salutatorian.”

Like many students, Silverman also struggled with virtual learning in its initial stages. 

“Since we weren’t in physical classes, it became insanely difficult to stay motivated to do work,” said Silverman. “I got into a bad habit where I would go on my phone during classes, keeping me from doing work. Also, on top of school, seniors had to write tons of essays for college applications which made it even harder.”

Fortunately, Silverman used her own techniques to help her succeed in her classes, even in a virtual setting.

“I would try to find Quizlet sets for my study topic and use that,” said Silverman. “In addition to studying a lot, I think another main reason I got good grades was because I did my work on time. I know that sounds really simple, but it’s true. Many assignments at Chamblee are graded based on completion, and I always made sure my work was turned in on time.”

For future valedictorians and salutatorians, Silverman offers some advice.

“I think my main piece of advice would be to just do your work and put in that little bit of extra time and effort to study for big tests,” said Silverman. “Also, if your goal is to become valedictorian or salutatorian, maybe take another AP class or two, if your schedule allows for it, to boost your GPA.”

Silverman will be majoring in Exercise Science on the pre-med track at the University of Georgia this fall.

Anika Karim: Resident Salutatorian

Photo courtesy of Anika Karim

Anika Karim (‘21) is one of two resident salutatorians with the second-highest GPA in the graduating class.

The title of salutatorian came as a surprise to Karim.

“My friend saw the website and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Anika, [you’re salutatorian],’” said Karim. “And I was like, ‘Really?’ But then I went and I checked, and I [was surprised because] I didn’t think that I was going to be salutatorian at all.”

Karim enjoyed her classes at Chamblee, some of which prepared her for her future in college.

“I really liked AP Psychology and AP U.S. History,” said Karim. “I’m not a history fan, but I had Miss Gilliam and she was like a really great teacher and I loved her. I just overall enjoyed that class a lot. For non-AP classes, [my favorite] would be Anatomy. I’m going the pre-med track and majoring in biology [in college], and I’m really interested in things like the human body.”

Similar to Silverman, Karim’s motives for maintaining a high GPA stemmed from applying to college.

“I wasn’t really focusing on becoming salutatorian,” said Karim. “I was more focused on keeping my GPA up for college and kind of meeting the requirements for the really competitive colleges.”

Unfortunately, Karim had a difficult time adjusting during the shift to virtual classes last fall.

“I hate virtual school because I’m more of a visual learner, but I’m also an auditory learner to a certain extent,” said Karim. “Just like sitting in front of a computer for so long and listening can get really boring, even if you’re an auditory learner. I would say first semester wasn’t as bad, but the second semester it got really bad because people got senioritis and they just kind of gave up. I would say the most important thing to kind of get around that would be to really communicate with your teachers.”

In the end, Karim recommends working hard to reach a goal while avoiding burnout.

“If [being valedictorian or salutatorian] is what you really want, go for it,” said Karim. “I believe in you; you can do it. I feel like anyone can do it if they try hard enough. But I would say don’t take too many AP classes that you can’t handle. I know a B is like an A when you take AP classes, but not really like it will still really affect your GPA, especially if you’ve had all A’s before. So that’s my biggest advice: don’t take more than you can handle.”

Karim will be attending Georgia State University this fall on the pre-med track.