Reading Time: 3 minutes
Math teacher Stan Kats’s last name has been blessed with a most extraordinary quality: being a homophone. Specifically, his name sounds like the word “cats,” which has led many of his students, past and present, to gift him Pusheen plushies. These stuffed animals now stand proudly in the windows of his classroom.
“The very first one came from a student named Alex Lu,” Kats explained. He remembers Lu to be a student who laughed at everything. “He gave it to me [...] as a Christmas gift, and when he gave it to me, he goes, ‘Here. ‘Cause it’s a cat. Get it?’” While Kats had no idea what Pusheen was prior to Lu’s gift, not even recognizing it as a cat, he recognized the symbolism behind the donut Pusheen was holding.
The backstory of the donut goes as such: years ago, Kats had to bribe his students to come to Saturday BC Calculus reviews to make sure that he was able to finish the curriculum. To thank his students for showing up, he would buy them donuts. Donuts later became synonymous with Kats––his office in room 301 has an inflatable donut and his desk in room 403 has a fake award gifted by students with a donut in the background.
After Lu’s gift, other students felt inspired to add on. Aryan Bhatt (’18) gifted Kats the Pusheenosaurus, a green Pusheen with spikes on its back. Next came a Pusheen holding a cookie, and after that came a Pusheen holding a slice of pizza. “I’d gotten three or four Pusheens in a very fast order,” Kats recalled. Since he didn’t know where else to put them, he placed the Pusheens on display in room 403.
The following year, in 2018, Steve Wong (’18) gifted Kats a Pusheen holding an ice cream sundae. “It wasn’t enough for him to give me a Pusheen. He wanted me to know just how exclusive it was, so [...] when he gave it to me, he goes, ‘Just so you know they only sell it at this one store and you can’t find it anywhere else,’ and that was his way of showing how much he loved me,” Kats explained.
When 2018 drew to a close, four or five graduating seniors banded together to get Kats the Potato Chip Pusheen. By then, he already had six Pusheens on display. But the cats didn’t live on his window sill forever. Oftentimes, the Pusheens were in the hands of freshmen. “A group of freshmen [...] were always very intimidated by being at a bigger school, so a few of the kids would [ask to hold one] and [I] would allow them to hold one during class if they really needed to,” Kats explained. For Christmas, his geometry class gave him a Candy Cane Pusheen as a thank you gift.
Unfortunately, later on in the year, a Pusheen was stolen: Ice Cream Pusheen. Not to be confused with Wong’s exclusive sundae bearing Pusheen, Ice Cream Pusheen was the one eating an ice cream cone. Someone else then stole Pizza Pusheen, but Pizza Pusheen was eventually recovered. “I remember [going] into [math teacher Dawn] Vollaro’s class [because] I was certain that Pusheen went missing during one of her classes while she was missing. [...] One student came forward and told me exactly who it was, and fortunately, we were able to get it back, but Ice Cream Pusheen is still gone,” Kats said.
The next Pusheen was given by current senior Carol Chen. Donning an overcoat and a hat, Detective Pusheen was a welcome addition to the collection. “[Chen] would sit in the math team class right next to the Pusheens. She told me she always liked the collection and appreciated them, so she gave me that Pusheen,” Kats said.
Not long after, Jennifer Yu (’18) gifted Kats a Lion Pusheen. However, Yu did not have Kats as a teacher. “She was friends with all those students I had and she had Cocoros for calculus. She was always a sweetheart, and she got me the lion one,” Kats said.
The latest Pusheen is a reminder of pre-COVID times. “For Christmas 2019, one of my favorite students, Julianna Yu (’21), [...] got me the big, blue Pusheen,” he said. Aptly named Squisheen, the blue one is big, squishy, and soft. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to the colors of Julianna Yu’s current college, Barnard.
When Kats looks at the Pusheens, not only does he see Pusheens, but he also sees his former students. “You got Alex, you got Julianna, you got Aryan, [...] each time I look at [the collection,] I just remember the kids and it makes me happy,” Kats said.