The 54 members of the Stowe High School Class of 2019 graduated Saturday, and four of their most dedicated teachers are beginning the next chapters of their lives, too.
Class President Alex Pelletier thanked the Stowe High faculty for educating and guiding the growth of the students. He focused on how their high school experiences had taught them to be true to themselves and to follow their passions.
Faculty members Jane Lambert, Don McDowell, Norm Williams and Tim Ziegler struck a similar theme in their speech — how following their passions led them to Stowe High School. When they were 18, none expected to be high school teachers. They discovered their love for teaching later in life and talked about the 156 cumulative years they’d spent teaching, and about how lucky they feel to have ended up at Stowe High School.
The four of them sat around a table with their laptops, re-enacting a meeting in the teachers lounge where they brainstormed ideas for their speech. They pretended they were writing the speech an hour before it was due and joked about how they’d always told their students not to procrastinate.
The teachers also joked about the clichés in most commencement speeches, and presented those ideas in an interesting and engaging way, showcasing their teaching skills one last time.
Williams said many of the classes he’s taught, such as AP U.S History and AP Government, were a result of student requests. He spoke about how eager his students have been to learn, and how lucky he was to end up at Stowe. He also gave the graduates a friendly reminder: “Beer is not another food group.”
McDowell admitted he’d considered teaching a “second-class job,” but his passions led him to it. He encouraged students to do what they enjoy, no matter what it is, so they’ll never have to work a day in their lives.
Lambert said that, when she began teaching, she never wanted to teach middle school. Yet, she ended up teaching music to students from kindergarten to grade 12 and enjoyed every moment of it.
Ziegler, who had a heart transplant in 2016, gave heartfelt thanks to the community for helping him and his family when they needed it. He said more than 20 students visited him in Boston when he was hospitalized.
The teachers spoke about how they’d taught each other’s kids and the children of many of their former students. All four agreed that Stowe is a special community that people return to for a reason. All four said they loved teaching here and will miss the Stowe High School community.
Will Cannon’s valedictorian speech took a different tone, focusing on how change is difficult. Moving to Stowe was hard for him, and leaving for college will be challenging for his classmates, he said.
Hugh North’s salutatorian speech conveyed a similar message more optimistically. He compared leaving Stowe to car racing — it’s important to look ahead while still making use of the rearview mirror. He used a car crash as a metaphor explaining how racecar drivers must look ahead when losing control. When things are difficult, North said, he and his classmates must look to the future instead of wishing for the past, despite how good it was.
Note: Writer Chris Pelletier is Alex Pelletier’s older brother.