2013 Commencement Speech - Tammy Buettner
Webster University's Commencement was held on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at The Muny. A few graduates were selected to speak at the individual ceremonies of their colleges and schools. They offered advice, inspiration and details about their own experiences at Webster University.
Bachelor of Arts, School of Education
Graduates, I begin today by asking you to reflect – yes, I know reflection is a word that you are all undoubtedly tired of hearing – but today, I ask you to reflect one more time. As you look forward to your future, take a moment to reflect on the wonderful achievements you have accomplished to reach this point. Take a moment to thank the friends and family who have supported you and are here today to celebrate you. I want to thank my kids, Dakota, Sidney, and Reese, you are my life, I love you! Like many of you, I would like to thank my parents. Vic and Bev Kizer, you have always been my biggest cheerleaders and the most loving and encouraging friends and parents anyone could ever have, I love you. I also owe a debt of gratitude to a former professor, Dr. Andrea St. John. When I decided to go to college 20 years after graduating from high school, I only planned to get a two-year degree so I could substitute teach. Dr. St. John is the reason I am here in front of you today; she saw something special in me and encouraged me to continue my education and believe in myself. She changed my life. My goal as a teacher is to be someone's Dr. St. John.
I hope you will all strive to be the kind of teacher who makes a positive difference in your students' lives. I ask that you always consider, very carefully, what you say to children. Some of you may be saying to yourself, “I'm teaching elementary school, they won't remember what I say when they grow up.” They will! Some of you may be saying, “I'm teaching a bunch of high school kids, they don't listen to what I say.” They do! Right now, I hope you are all thinking of the teachers who have impacted your life in a positive way. Make the choice now to be the teacher that brings hope to a child's life; be the teacher a student remembers for the rest of his life.
As we move forward from today, we share the awesome responsibility of educating future generations; for we, the teachers, shape the future of our nation. Though we are all teachers, we have chosen different grade levels and will guide students through different stages of life. Through our many, many educational psychology classes, we know about Erikson and Piaget's ideas regarding the stages of life. I prefer to think of students in a different way. I think of students as seeds that need to be cultivated, nurtured, and supported throughout their stages of education. As eager, yet nervous, young seeds arrive for their first day of kindergarten with their little lunch boxes and tiny backpacks, they are greeted by the smiling gardeners who are anxious to begin planting the seeds that will one day grow into a garden of beautiful flowers. Those of you in early childhood and elementary education will plant the seeds of knowledge. You will teach your students to read and write. You will teach them how to care and how to share. After years of nurturing and supporting your seeds, they will have grown into strong flowers whose leaves are growing with each new day.
With a heavy heart, you will pass your flowers to middle school gardeners who will water them with care and compassion and feed them the knowledge they so desperately seek. Middle school gardeners, you will not only teach your students about the world they live in, you will also help them as they struggle through the first stages of adolescence. Sadly, for some flowers, you may be their only source of light. You will have rainy days; that's okay, flowers can't grow without a little rain. When your flowers begin to bud, they will finally be ready to move to that big garden known as high school.
We, the high school gardeners have the breathtaking honor of bringing your precious buds to bloom. High school gardeners finish the beautiful garden that began as tiny seeds so long ago. Throughout the years, each student has grown and changed, each one is totally different from the other with its own opinions and beliefs, yet each is the same. Each seed has bloomed into a beautiful flower anxious to discover the world and make its mark. Each flower has been properly prepared and knows its direction in life - be it the military, technical school, work, or college.
The professors at Webster University have served as our gardeners for the last several years, preparing us to be the next generation of gardener. Our professors have passed on their knowledge, experience, and wisdom hoping to prepare us for everything we may face in the classroom. Of course, student teaching has proven to us that that's impossible; students will always find shocking, hilarious, and sometimes horrifying ways to surprise us. Today, we are cut from our garden. Today, we cease to be the flowers and become the gardeners. Remember to always treat your seeds, your buds, and your blooms with care and respect, but don't forget to take care of your fellow gardeners.
Hopefully, during your time at Webster University you have discovered how important your fellow gardeners will be in keeping you sane. I'm going to say another word that we are all tired of hearing, mostly because I know you don't have anything to throw at me, that word is collaboration. We have all been told – often – that more than half of education graduates are no longer teaching after five years. I have found that if you have a strong group of friends to collaborate with and depend on, staying focused and upbeat becomes much easier. During one of my first education classes at Webster, I met a wonderful group of people who I have come to depend on. We have formed a tight-knit group, we support each other, and we helped each other survive student teaching and completing the soul-sucking teacher work sample. I'm sure all of you have your own groups that you depend on, do not lose touch after today…you will need each other.
Our fist teaching jobs will be scary. We will probably all feel a little anxious and lost. I encourage all of you to seek out peers and mentors who will guide you through the initial stages of teaching. Our peers are the tools we must use to help our gardens grow. Use their knowledge and experience, learn from their mistakes, but don't be afraid to make your own. I wish you all the best of luck. I look forward to watching your gardens grow.