Salutatorian: Tifani Panek

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Salutatorian: Tifani Panek

By Ana Meija, Reporter

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As she looked tirelessly and hopelessly down the seemingly never-ending hallway full of students looking just as lost as her, and among others that walked on without a care in the world, Tifani Panek resigned herself to asking someone for directions.

She tried to follow a teacher’s directions around the school and she realized she would not be able to remember these directions when she took on her second day at Lane. Panek, the Class of 2018 salutatorian, recalled her first day at Lane with detail-driven nostalgia and slight embarrassment at her 14-year old self.

“I also remember asking Mr. Toh if he had a sharpie,” Panek, Div. 873, said. “He asked me, ‘Why do you need a sharpie?’ And I said, ‘I want to write directions on my ID.’ Who writes directions of the school on their ID? And yet, that was me.”


The anxiety that Panek had went beyond not knowing her way around the large campus. Panek said despite having grown accustomed to her elementary school, she did not feel it was the most welcoming compared to how Lane was.

“Before coming to Lane, it was hard for me to relate,” Panek said. “I’m biracial. I’m half Chinese, half Polish. It was hard to find anyone like that in my elementary school, but at Lane you celebrate your differences and your diversity.”

Lane’s diversity heightened Panek’s ability to relate to others, and she said she is grateful for it. She hopes to get her message of relatability across to the rest of the Class of 2018.

Panek wants to redefine the idea that people who are chosen to be valedictorians or salutatorians are people completely and solely invested in academics.

“I’m not hardcore academics — I just like to go home and procrastinate like everybody else,” Panek said. “I like to watch movies, I definitely watch a lot of YouTube.”

Panek has participated in many extracurriculars such as Cambodian-Thai and GEMS, and served as president of both clubs.

Ms. Bey, Panek’s sophomore English teacher, said that Tifani exceeded expectations both in and outside of the classroom.

“She goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure she’s doing her best and to go above and beyond the expectations,” Bey said. “She was extremely capable of becoming salutatorian or valedictorian because she’s driven and passionate. I am not surprised she is salutatorian.”

Bey said that Panek has a great rapport with other teachers at Lane and that she always tries her best and to excel above even that. However, Panek said that her journey to success has not been an easy process — she has had her fair share of struggles as she feels many of her classmates have had too.

“I don’t think that I have natural intelligence, by any means,” Panek said. “I think it’s more that I put a lot of work into everything I do and that’s what’s gotten me to where I am. It hasn’t been easy for me, I’ve had to put a lot of effort into every single class that I’ve had.”

Bey acknowledged that to be an excellent student like Tifani takes a lot of work, but she also said that to Tifani there’s always room for improvement. Bey said that though Tifani has been successful she’s never been boastful about it.

“She’s not one of those kids that has to prove she’s the smartest,” Bey said. “ She’s a very humble student, I would say. She’s extremely intelligent and she doesn’t give herself enough credit.”

Panek hopes to continue her successful academic career at Davidson College. She said one of the reasons she chose Davidson was because it is a small school and she wants to know everyone on campus.

Bey said she’ll leave a lasting impact on those at Lane who knew her.

“She’s very graceful, very respectful,” said Bey. “She’s polite and kind to everyone. I’m very proud and honored to have been her teacher.”

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