After a typical day at school, Nathan Berner goes home to finish the homework for his six AP classes, measure the ink left in his Pilot G-2 pen, play a game of hockey and maybe even find a new hobby. As a sophomore at CCHS, six AP’s seems like a lot to have on your plate. For Berner, however, it’s a fun learning experience and an incredible opportunity to take advantage of.
Starting his second year of high school, Berner finds himself with a schedule that only seniors would even dare to pursue. With all AP classes except for English, he found himself an incredible challenge- but nothing he can’t manage.
Berner, unlike many students, sees school as an adventure to gain new insights, and explore the world in all dimensions (a topic he finds quite intriguing). Instead of feeling an immense pressure to succeed, Berner finds it enjoyable and will never hesitate to pour his heart and soul into his work.
“I am pretty self-motivating,” Berner said. “I’m lucky that I can find interest in a lot of things.”
Despite popular belief, Berner’s lifestyle of rigor and achievement wasn’t always the case. Up until about eighth grade, Berner felt he lacked the skills to succeed in math. Taking initiative to assuage any regrets during middle school, he began to take classes on FLVS to get ahead.
After taking a number of math classes online, Berner finds himself in AP Calculus BC as a sophomore. For Berner, math became easier as the difficulty increased; he found that the more difficult the math, the more ways to go about a problem. In other words, his mind has options instead of being limited with only one way of thinking.
“I think what I consider math now is different than what I would’ve two years ago,” Berner said. “Math can be anything, and there are many creative thought processes that can solve a math problem.”
After seeing his success in math, Berner found higher levels of confidence within himself, which then translated to what he perceived as a change in his own capabilities for other classes. For years, he had doubted his own mind and questioned what he could accomplish. After finding comfort in what seemed impossible not too long ago, Berner began performing at an even higher level in his other classes and continued his journey through FLVS.
“There’s a certain level you can reach in what I call the ‘World of the Dubious,’” Berner said. “It’s really a barrier, and once you dismantle that, then you can really get to math.”
Once Berner developed a small obsession for FLVS, he found classes he would love to take, but prerequisites that he found were quite boring; they were classes he frankly didn’t like, yet he decided to take them, even though it was in no way mandatory. Berner believes that one should not abandon their aspirations solely because the journey to get there isn’t enjoyable.
“There are hoops you have to jump through to get to the things you like,” Berner explained. “I try to balance these out with the things that I love.”
Berner finds satisfaction in his success but has also been pursuing a hobby with friends involving measuring the amount of ink he uses for school assignments. Starting early March, Berner has been measuring the ink left in the cartridge of his Pilot G-2 pen. A few friends have joined along, like Daniel Siao, one of Berner’s best friends.
“The main reason…was to motivate us to take notes or complete work that would benefit us academically,” Siao said. “As an additional source of information, we set distance goals to and from a specific city.”
He has hopes to start a club where members can collectively track their meters for a fun way to relax and reflect on recently completed work. Aside from his club that’s still in the works, Berner is involved in both math and science club. These serve as social outlets for Berner as well.
“Nathan, from day one, would come into math club tutoring anybody,” AP Calculus teacher Darryl Schultz said. “A lot of people who are that smart aren’t really willing to share their intelligence, and he’s more than willing to.”
Berner loves to make people laugh, as well. He is aware that humor usually comes at the expense of another person’s feelings, and wants to see a change in that. For Berner, humor is the best way to connect with other people.
“Who could forget an inside joke?” Berner questioned.
Aside from opportunities that can be found within CCHS, Berner finds yet another interest in hockey. Although he doesn’t consider himself to be the star of the ice rink, Berner does enjoy the sport. He will often find himself lost in thought, contemplating the geometric properties of the rink, or other thoughts of that nature.
“I use hockey as an openness of thought,” Berner said. “Things just come to me when I’m playing hockey.”
In terms of the future, Berner still finds he is struggling to choose a career path, as he can typically drift between interests. He has “phases” of considering potential occupations, such as wanting to study the field of medicine to wanting to study engineering. Berner is disappointed in this indecisiveness and wishes to find a field of study that he knows he can stick with.
“I hate the idea of wasting time…it scares me,” Berner said. “And it’s like I’m drilling [through a sphere] but I’m going around that center point; I never hit that center point.”
The same can be said for college plans, but in this case, Berner keeps a very open mind. He is aware that finances and other limiting factors come into play when it comes to finding the right school, so he is very realistic when considering the right university for himself.
For now, however, Berner will continue his rigorous course of action throughout high school, finding new things to take interest in every day. He will continue to laugh with his friends, measure the ink he uses and play hockey until he is called upon to do something else. Perhaps this is saving lives as a heart surgeon, or perhaps it is exploring the limitations of the universe with NASA. Wherever Berner’s life takes him, he will find joy in what he does, and he will never stop learning about the world around him.
“I never like to think of school work as a sacrifice,” Berner said. “If anything, it’s a valuable learning experience, meant to be challenging and fun.”
Photo by Sarah Khan