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A Fond Farewell, and Heartfelt Thanks

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations, with hopes for continued success, to the entire Class of 2013. But this is addressed specifically to forty-four members of this year’s graduating class: the students of last year’s World History AP course.

For the first three years of WHAP (as it is affectionately known), the class was an elective as the course went through its pilot phase. I consider it a high honor to be chosen to initiate such a course, and I consider myself doubly fortunate to have had a group of dedicated, intelligent students voluntarily submit themselves to the rigor of an AP class such as this. To have a small group of students choose to deal with the intense nature of an AP course, and to deal with me, well, words fail to convey the appreciation and gratitude I feel towards those brave young men and women.

But last year’s group, this year’s seniors, was something special, indeed. Having already had World History as freshmen, we were able to take the time to tackle the larger issues. Heated class discussions on Socratic and Kantian philosophy, the real meaning of the Renaissance and Enlightenment; the global impact of Athens, China, Japan; the continuity and change of the world’s great religions over the centuries; the misuse of quotation marks in 21st century America – no issue was beyond our grasp or unworthy of our attention.

You also crushed the AP World History exam, but I take no credit for that; that was all on you.

Then there was the experiment with the class journal. As you know, with two small classes, we were able to pass around a journal wherein each of you was given an opportunity to voice concerns, ideas, feelings, anything that crossed your mind, in an anonymous medium that was open to all to read, to react to, to expand upon. What began as an experiment to encourage open exchange of ideas within each class turned into one of the most amazing activities I’ve ever seen, and became a cherished keepsake for all of us. To have the thoughts and emotions of you amazing young people so candidly and freely given speaks volumes of your own academic and emotional maturity, and of the trust generated between each member of these two amazing classes.

And now you are off to college, to a world where the only expectation is that you learn something every day. I can’t think of a better world in which to live. I know you all will succeed beyond anything you can imagine today. And as the years go by, when memories of me have, rightfully, faded into to mist, I know you will keep alive what you accomplished in WHAP, the pure joy of learning and discovery, and not just of the world at large, but of yourselves.

Each September, I enter the new school year with the thought that if I reach, and I mean really reach, just one student, then that year will have been a success. That year, 2011-2012, you students reached me. You gave me sense of competence, a confirmation and justification of what I do and the way I do it. You often challenged me, intellectually and academically, and I can only hope I rose to the occasion. You gave me the reasons and motivations to keep doing what I do, and the way I do it, reasons and motivations that have become more important as the already crushing pressure from above on all we teachers increases daily. You gave me hope.

As I haven’t the ability to begin to express the depth of my gratitude for all this, for all of you, these poor words will have to suffice. Again, congratulations on your graduation, and thanks. For everything.

– B Martinak

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