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Priceless Smiles

I mentioned, in yesterday’s post, that my school had its graduation ceremony on Tuesday, and that I had photos I’d be sharing.

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, but I’m actually following through on that post.


Y’all, I know that I sound like a broken record sometimes, but seriously, teaching can be so rewarding sometimes.

Graduation is the culmination of everything amazing, not to mention the payoff for endless hours of hard work, for both students and teachers.

I was nervous about the weather that evening because Subtropical Storm Alberto had just passed through the day before, and it had rained ALL morning.  The kids usually sit out on the football field for commencement; however, Plan B was that graduation would take place in the gym if thunderstorms decided to come our way.  That would have left students with two graduation tickets instead of ten, severely limiting the number of family/friends allowed to attend.

I got to the gym, where students were milling around in their caps and gowns.  It was a great chance to speak with them and pose for pictures.

As it got closer to showtime, I stepped outside and walked to the field.  The sky was absolutely glorious – and free of rain.

We teachers milled around at one end of the field while we waited for the graduates to arrive, pageant style.

As we began to walk across the field as the ceremony began, the sky had changed colors. It took my breath away.

My school district just rebuilt our stadium; a large screen now stands at one end of the field. I absolutely loved seeing things up close. This sight made my heart flutter; gratefulness for those serving overwhelmed me.

After listening to various speakers, it was finally time for the main event – the reading of each graduating senior’s name and his/her walk across the stage.

The teacher’s section, off to the side, was in close proximity to the red-clad kiddos, and it was with much affection and joy that I hopped out of my seat to hug the necks of the kids I’d had the pleasure of teaching. Some had graced my classroom two years ago as sophomores, while others had joined me this year as juniors (graduating a year early) and seniors. A few of my sophomores from two years ago were back with me as seniors this year, so we knew each other well.

I snapped a few selfies. They are priceless and speak volumes to the emotions that were running rampant that night.


The young lady in the photo above was a student of mine two years ago . . . a petite, feisty gal who had a strong work ethic that I held in high regard. A couple of weeks ago, during Teacher Appreciation Week, she posted the sweetest tribute to me. A friend saw it (I do not friend students on Facebook) and had tagged me in a comment. I was sitting in my driveway reading it and crying as her words entered my soul – her gratefulness for me a balm to my weary heart.

The student in the photo below was a tenderhearted young lady who had to overcome a lot of obstacles this year to stay the course. She was methodical about her work and quick to share a smile. I adored having her in my class.

The next young lady worked so hard all year. She was uber-quiet and completely focused on her goal of graduating. She went the extra mile with every assignment and worked hard outside of class to improve her reading. One of the high points of my year was giving her the good news that not only did she pass her SAT, but she blew the required score out of the water. Hearing this soft-spoken young lady shout out in exuberant joy while jumping up and down in my class brought me to tears. I know, from experience, how meaningful it is when you have to work especially hard for something.

The next young lady kept things very real in my class.  She was sassy to the core, but she was a mature kind of sassy.  She knew the line she couldn’t cross and often kept other students in check.  She was fiercely independent and worked long hours at a job outside of school.  I remember when she took the December ACT.  Many of my students had signed up for that test (it was another pathway toward graduation), and I’d surprised my students by showing up at the test site.  As I’d handed out pencils, mints, and other snacks, I’d spoken words of encouragement.  This gal’s surprise that I would show up, on a Saturday (i.e. my day off) spoke volumes and cemented a trust that had been formative at that point.

She had covered her eyes and begged me not to look when we’d signed onto her account to check her scores two weeks later.  Truth be told, I had already known that she’d passed, but she was scared to death.  Her shock and joy were a sight to behold.  She was extremely emotional as she prepared to walk across the stage, just moments after we snapped this photo.

I’ll never forget the young man in my final photo.  I remember the first time he walked into my classroom.  For some reason, I think he came a day or two after school started, and I knew, from the way other students greeted him, that he was popular.  I also spied a mischievous glint in his eye.  Oh yeah, he’d been a character his first three years of high school, or so I hear.  😉

This young man surprised me though.  He was always respectful and heeded my requests to stop talking and get back on task.  He never spoke a cross word.  It was incredibly satisfying when we learned that he had passed his reading exam, although he was sad when his schedule was changed since he no longer needed my class.  Every single time he walked past my room between classes, he spoke to me with a smile on his face.  It was with much joy that we hugged one another as he prepared to accept his diploma.

Y’all, these are the smiles of students who achieved the goals they set for themselves the first day they walked into my room.

I pray that as they encounter curve balls during their lives, they’ll remember the obstacles they overcame early on.

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