A Faculty Tribute to Our Eighth Graders
Last week, 83 eighth graders gathered for an evening of dinner and dancing to celebrate their final days as middle schoolers. As I looked out upon this happy gathering, I couldn’t help but remember these young adults as wide-eyed fifth graders. At their very first middle school assembly in August of 2011, I challenged them to “leave each place better than you found it.” They have.
At the dinner, eighth grade coordinator and beloved science teacher Laura Montgomery offered beautiful remarks about these students’ accomplishments . . . and issued a new challenge for their journey ahead. I am delighted to share her speech below.
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In reflecting upon what I wanted to say to you tonight, I me across the following quote from businessman Joseph B. Wirthlin: “Dates that come around every year help us measure progress in our lives.”
As this date always comes around, we are now looking at the end of another school year. And not just any year, but the end of your 8th grade year. The end of your middle school journey.
Like any journey, this year has had highlights and lowlights, successes and failures, two steps forward and sometimes a step back. But I think we can all agree that — regardless of any bumps along the road — what progress you have made . . . not only this year, but throughout the past four years.
So as Mr. Wirthlin suggested, let us measure the progress you have made in the last year. I asked your teachers to reflect back and tell me what their most impactful memories have been. Let us measure together:
- You delivered Shakespearen monologues…and actually understood their meaning.
- You explored numerous Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, an ambassador’s residence, Arlington National Cemetery, Harper’s Ferry, the trails of Manidokan, and the University of Virginia.
- You honed your Spanish conjugation skills while sharpening your golf skills during Masters week.
- You worked with second graders in Trojan Tutors with patience and energy.
- You attacked very difficult electricity challenges with an overabundance of enthusiasm and excitement.
- You practiced, memorized, sang, and danced your hearts out to tell the story of Mulan to hundreds of people in the audience.
- You stretched your learning outside of the normal curriculum by studying origami, personal finances, nutrition, 3D printing and robotics, Sherlock Holmes, ethics, Star Wars, and the World Peace Game.
- You discovered Latin and Roman influences and culture in Washington D.C. and Charlottesville.
- You expressed delight and surprise when your pinhole images came to life in the darkroom for the first time.
- You discovered the formula for surface area of a sphere by using an orange peel.
- You embraced the implementation of the iPad in your classrooms, learning how to use it as a tool of production and education instead of simply an entertainment device.
- You managed to not burn down the building when using Bunsen burners.
- You re-enacted the Dred Scott case: with lawyers formally objecting to everything their opposing lawyer said, with witnesses having to think like the actual participants would have thought, with all of you having to use evidence to make decisions.
- You led the fifth and sixth graders in Happy Helpers with their warm-up games.
- You represented the character, determination, and integrity of a Trinity Valley Trojan in a variety of competition arenas: the athletic fields and courts, debate tournament stages, TEDx speeches, Mathcounts regional and state competitions, spelling and geography bees.
So whether we measure by awards won, goals scored, papers written, movies created, tests conquered, or even by grams or kilograms….what progress you have made.
But what is most exciting is that the end of the year doesn’t imply that this progress ceases to exist. Today marks the start of a new progress: an exponential growth of learning, maturity, and education as you leave the middle school behind and embark on your journey into Upper School.
At 17 years of age, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Pakistani activist for human rights and education has overcome amazing odds and assassination attempts on her young life to bring a message to the international community about the importance of education. She states, “In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education…it’s like a precious gift. It’s like a diamond.”
I challenge you to take your normal life and treat it like a diamond. Embrace the challenges ahead of you. You have been given a precious gift by your family: the gift of a Trinity Valley education. It is up to you to embrace that gift with every ounce of your mind, effort, and time. Treat your education like a diamond: precious beyond measure, yet strong enough to withstand any pressure that is applied.
On behalf of your teachers and administrators, congratulations on your progress and on your journey.