By Katie Jarnot
Some of the most rewarding moments of working in public education are senior graduations at the end of a school year. Our teachers, support staff, and principals pour their heart and souls into educating and guiding the community’s young people throughout their schooling from pre-K to graduation.
We see the incredible change students go through as they mature and become more knowledgeable. And, then over four days in our community, we watch the 400 or so seniors of Eagle County Schools walk across a stage and into the next exciting and demanding stage of their lives.
We are proud. We are thrilled. Sometimes our eyes well up. We are filled with hope and curiosity about how those kindergartners-turned-seniors will flourish and contribute to the good of communities wherever they may land.
It’s also a time when we reflect on the totality of our work as educators. The day-to-day operations of public education are often focused on time- and subject-specific moments of teaching and learning. The curriculum scaffolds up, building knowledge upon knowledge timed with age-related brain and physical development to provide our children with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful citizens.
I like to say that teaching is an art form. Teachers are artists who together work to create masterpieces. Each masterpiece is different, but each adds value to a priceless collection, and on graduation day, our teachers/artists can all stand back and say, “Congratulations graduates, look at the unique masterpieces you have become.”
Parents have been leading this incredible journey, with graduation being a significant milestone for them, too. Education is a team sport. It is a partnership between parents, children, and teachers. It is perhaps the most collaborative effort on the planet.
We work together to find a solution when we disagree, our priorities do not align, or expectations do not match. We work together and persevere because everything we do must be what is best for kids. We do this out of love for our children. We want to prepare them for the world they will live in.
During this journey, parents worry about whether or not their children are being successful, language barriers, cultural differences, math skills, academics, bad days, losses in sports, mental health, injuries, relationships and friendships. But, in the end, we all want our children to be happy, healthy, productive members of society.
Several of our seniors have achieved what was once impossible — they’re graduating with an associate’s degree from college at the same time they graduate from high school. This year, we’ve celebrated 13 early or on-time graduates of the Early College program and five more may wrap up their associates by the end of summer.
It’s one thing to graduate with an associate’s degree, but every senior had the opportunity to take dual enrollment or advanced placement classes and graduate high school with some college credit. This saves parents money and accelerates students through college with the confidence that they can complete the degree of their choosing.
A significant number of our graduates speak two languages, participated in project-based learning or competed at a state level in sports or band or speech and debate. They’ve already been places, so they meet the next place with excitement instead of apprehension.
We will always worry about our children, but graduation is a letting go, and it is scary for parents, educators, and students. They are ready. They are well prepared.
Finally, the gift our community gives to our graduates — their education — comes back to us many times over. Adults see educators in the grocery store and come over and ask if we remember them. They thank us and bring us up to speed on what they’re doing now. They’re teachers, law enforcement officers, engineers, firefighters, attorneys, doctors, construction workers, dentists, pilots, hairdressers, military personnel, realtors, nurses, doctors, and business owners. They are the very fabric of our community.
That’s who we see walking across the stage. We see the future. We are grateful to have been part of their journey. As a Battle Mountain High School alumna, I know the impact our amazing teachers and community have on our graduates. Please join me in celebrating their moment.
Katie Jarnot is the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Curriculum and Instruction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org