Lisa Wei '26
Feb 3, 2023
Grace Abel, Mercersburg’s Chinese teacher of eleven years, smiled as she recounted the path that led her to Mercersburg Academy. She came to the United States from Taiwan with her husband, Andy Abel, after his acceptance into a Doctoral program in Amherst, Massachusetts. “There wasn’t a big difference between living in Taiwan and in America because, in both places, we lived in rural locations with diverse communities,” Abel said. She moved to Mercersburg in 2012 after receiving the opportunity to teach Chinese and enroll her son in Mercersburg Academy.
In Taiwan, Abel taught Chinese to university students. After she earned her education degree, she prioritized teaching in secondary school education. She was influenced by her advisor in graduate school, who thought that middle school and high school education was a more formative time in a person’s life than the university years. She taught Chinese at several schools in Taiwan and the US before coming to Mercersburg Academy.
“I was a teacher in Nebraska, Massachusetts, and other states,” Abel said. “However, I found out that the public school system in America where I lived was very unorganized. There were specific systems that I needed to use to teach, which I didn’t like because I wanted to apply my ideas and knowledge from graduate school into my teaching.”
Abel’s desire for more freedom in her classroom led her to teach at an independent high school in Seattle, Lakeside School. Eventually, she and her family moved back to Massachusetts because they wanted to live closer to her husband’s parents. There, they taught at Northfield Mount Hermon School.
The couple spent time in central America where Andy Abel held a teaching position at a college. Abel said, “We wanted to move back to New England, so we searched for schools in the area. Originally, we didn’t even consider coming to Pennsylvania; however, there was an opportunity to teach Chinese here, so we came over.”
Abel and her husband planned to stay at Mercersburg Academy until their son graduated from high school. “We thought that we would only stay for a while, but almost eleven years have passed,” she said.
Abel’s favorite Mercersburg memories surround its many traditions. “In other schools where I taught, sports day was only one or two days. Here, at Mercersburg, Irving and Marshall Week is a whole week of activities, which gives students a break from school work and brings our community closer together. I like all school activities, which is why Step Songs is another tradition that stood out to me. I really love how the community gathers together to celebrate and cheer each other on, ” she said.