Superintendent for the Westwind School Division
I want to dedicate my final “Eye on Education” article of the school year to highlighting, celebrating and offering a tribute to this year’s graduating class. In my three-plus decades of education experience as a teacher, school administrator and now a superintendent, I believe the class of 2021 to be among the most robust, vibrant and resilient group of students I’ve ever had the opportunity to encounter in my career.
Educators have spent countless hours over the past 15 months working to formulate learning plans that would meet all required provincial directives, while still meeting the expected learning needs of our students. Time and time again, I have witnessed our Grade 12 students manoeuvre detours and unexpected obstacles in their learning journey with a co-operative and willing attitude to try and make the best out of multiple unfortunate and unprecedented situations.
Discussing adversity, Abraham Lincoln famously said, “it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up!” When I think about our graduating students, this phrase echoes in my mind. Our 2021 grads have faced numerous transitions to at-home/online learning, weeks of quarantine and selfisolation and countless missed opportunities to participate in the excitement of extracurricular programming. This heartbreaking reality has been no fault of their own, yet despite these challenges, I have witnessed our graduating students maintain strong attendance records, share sincere smiles, demonstrate an eagerness to learn and sustain an overall pleasant demeanour during an undeniably difficult time.
Since March 2020, our grads have eagerly anticipated a government announcement that would return life to a level of normal they once enjoyed — a normal that included uninterrupted classroom learning, tutorials, flex periods, clubs, drama, fine arts, student councils, dances, activities, athletics and traditional graduation celebrations.
I’ve heard many times from our students, at all grade levels, they “just want to be in school learning from their teacher, being with their friends and participating in their school activities.” I believe it’s difficult for many of us to truly understand what many of these graduates are experiencing on a day-today basis.
Our students are experiencing a very different high school experience than most of us, yet continue to press forward, determined to succeed despite facing unprecedented adversity. It is truly inspiring.
To our graduates: I am amazed by your ability to face the COVID-19 challenges of the past 15 months with dignity and class. Daily, the adults in your life have required you to face trials, setbacks, disappointments and accept realities that have never been seen in education before. Your resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, handle missed opportunities and meet daily challenges continue to be an excellent exemplar for us to copy, model and emulate. You are a powerful generation that will undoubtedly be prepared to accomplish anything faced in your future. You’ve proven to all, and most importantly yourself, that you can do challenging things.
I wish our Westwind graduates and members of the class of 2021 across southern Alberta the very best in their next adventure in life.