I am so incredibly honored to have been asked to be your guest speaker this morning! I am a proud graduate of the class of 1978 from Catholic Central High School. I am very proud that both my daughter and my son are graduates of Catholic Central High School.
I though I would tell you a bit about what CCHS was like back in 1978 when I was in Grade 12.
- CCHS was one school that housed students from Grade 8-12 and we used the St. Francis building, the main CCHS building and the St. Joseph wing. There was a small “girls” gym where the Eggplant and Music rooms now are.
- Vassey Hall did not yet exist. Our big main gym was the St. Francis gym and that is where the hub of high school life happened – everything from sports events, to assemblies to school dances. I remember dancing to catchy tunes like Elton John’s Crocodile Rock, Bee Gees Stayin Alive and swaying along to everything by the Eagles and even John Denver’s Country Roads. (Class of 2019 Grad Song)
- We had an annual winter carnival which included various winter challenges, assemblies and a school dance where I was crowned Miss CCHS 1978. (My family wanted me to wear my tiara today, but I thought that might be a bit too…. shall we say… Amy Farrah Fowler.)
I was a cheerleader from Grade 8 to 12 and we brought home many cheerleading trophies from Basketball Tournaments around the province – I checked in the trophy case last time I was at CCHS and didn’t see them, so maybe they are in that mysterious secret crawl space below the old St. Joseph wing?
Back in ‘78 we were just cheerleaders – we cheered on our teams, we didn’t have any gymnasts and certainly weren’t a dance squad. We did some fundraising, saved up our pennies and got to go to summer cheerleading camp at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It was there that I first met my wonderful husband of almost 37 years. Mike was there attending Hockey camp, by the way.
I learned a very important life lesson from cheerleading – and it comes from the leading part of cheerleading: People tend to support those things which they help to create.
Now you may or may not think of yourself as a leader today but you need to know that there will be times throughout your life when you are called to lead. I have found time and time again that the only way to ensure that as a leader, you have others with you is to include them every step of the way, right from brainstorming solutions to creating and carrying out a plan. That’s how commitment is built. How many times have you ended up doing group work, where one person did all the work and everyone else sat around and let it happen?
Become aware of opportunities to lead and be aware of ways to meaningfully include others in the process. The end product will always be richer because of the different gifts that each person brings. St. Paul reminds us that we are all one body and that within that one body there are many gifts and one Spirit. Because we are all created in the likeness and image of God, to meet another person is to encounter God.
Remember: People tend to support those things which they help to create.
I feel like you and I have some things in common right now. At the end of June, your high school days will be complete and I will be moving on into retirement. These are really big significant life changes! This year, I have been doing a lot of looking back and looking forward. As I look back, I feel so blessed to have had the gift of Catholic Education for almost every year of my life since starting Grade One. I attended St Patrick’s School, St. Basil School, St. Mary School and Catholic Central High School and then went on immediately after high school to work as an educational assistant at St. Patrick’s school – right back where I started. I remember noticing the same smell when I walked into the building after 9 years – it was…”school!” (Books?) I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but in 1978, to be honest, I actually wasn’t sure that I was “smart” enough for university. My reasons for wanting to be a teacher were actually quite naive at the time anyway.
- I loved pretending to mark re-used worksheets with lots of red check , check, check marks.
- I could hardly wait to have my own class to take to the library and use cool library tools like the date due stamp to check out books and … the encyclopedias …and the card catalogue!
- I was looking forward to teaching in an orderly classroom where my students would sit still, work quietly, do what I commanded them to do … and raise their hands to speak.
During my time at St. Patrick’s I learned that teaching was a much more important and complex calling than I had first imagined. I knew right away that I loved working with students, guiding their learning and helping them to master learning hurdles. I learned from wonderful, kind teachers who cared for their students, respected the dignity of each precious one and went above and beyond daily to make school a great place to learn – just like your teachers at Catholic Central High School.
I began a journey where I learned that the world was changing rapidly and my vision of teaching and learning from my own Grade One experience was already drastically out of date and I would need to learn to embrace change in order to be successful. I have loved and looked forward to every day of my job (well, almost – let’s be real, here). My hope for you is that you will find your passion. I hope that you can do what you love and love what you do every day!
I have basically stayed in the same field – education for my entire career. (Apparently that’s kind of weird and not typical these days.) As we were reminded last night, you could have 7-8 job changes over the course of your lifetime. Nowadays, employers are looking for very specific skills (or competencies, as we refer to them in educational jargon). I believe that one of the most important of these is to be a lifelong learner. (You will need to embrace this if you are an average person who changes their job 7-8 times.) Never stop learning!
When I went to school and even when some of your parents went to school, a successful student was one who could figure out exactly what the teacher wanted and regurgitate the right answers to a set of multiple choice questions. But Life doesn’t work that way. Beyond formal schooling we rarely see multiple choice tests – rather we are faced with real life decisions that require us to consider multiple perspectives and various factors. We know now that you have entire libraries of knowledge and information in your pocket with instant access to the internet. You will need to be good at assessing and discerning what is the best, most accurate and useful information to make big life altering decisions.
Be a lifelong learner with the knowledge that “God loves you too much to allow you to stay the way you are today.”
Since announcing my retirement, I have been asked many times, What are you going to do?” I would guess that you are getting a lot of this same question. We tend to let our schooling and our jobs define who we are, and it almost seems like when I say I am retiring people assume that I if I’m not working at my job, then I couldn’t possibly be doing anything worthwhile.
My hope for you is that you will also proudly love what you end up doing in your life. Always know that you are not your job – you are so much more than that. You are beautifully created in the likeness and image of God.
Who you are is God’s gift to you. Who you become is your gift to God.
In Summary 3 things to take away
- You will be called to Lead – People tend to support those things which they help to create.
- Do what you love and love what you do- every day!
- Be a Lifelong Learner
Graduation from Catholic Central High School is graduation from all your Holy Spirit schooling. Know that all of your teachers had a part in your education and they are all praying for you this weekend and will continue to pray for you as you go forward into the world. When I think of the place we belong, I think of the parable of the prodigal son. Even after the son disrespected and squandered his Father’s fortune, the Father welcomed his son home with open arms. Your family, your hometown, our Catholic community…this is home. Where ever you go in the world, this is one place where you will always belong.