Teacher: Class of 2012 Shows Compassion

Fox Lane teacher Jerry Ludwig addressed the class of 2012.

Graduates, let me begin by thanking you for this honor. I am humbled to think that you asked me, a physics teacher, to be your speaker at graduation. When thinking about what to say this afternoon I thought of my own graduation. I graduated in 1983 from Mount Desert Island High School in the heart of Acadia National Park in the state of Maine.

Like Jordan, I was also the Salutatorian but in a graduating class of two!
Things have changed since 1983. Growing up in Maine I only had three TV channels to watch. And like your parents our phone was tied to the kitchen wall, we typed our college applications on a typewriter, and mom was our spellchecker.

But in many ways, there are no differences. Graduations are still under tents. Your parents, grandparents, friends and families are here to celebrate with you. It’s always hot in June. And you really have to know someone to get extra tickets to the graduation!

Graduates you are all smart and sophisticated people. You know the world in ways my generation never did. I have learned from you in so many ways. In physics we have formula for everything. Plug in the right variables and you’ll get your expected result. There are no formulas that I can share with you today. All I can tell you today is what I have learned. And what I have learned is you can’t do it alone.

As you navigate through life be open for collaboration. Other people’s ideas are just as good as your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

Dreams don’t need a bumper sticker

On my commute to the High School I notice how many cars are covered with those oval bumper stickers like: OBX or 26.2. Those ovals stickers stare at you in traffic letting you know what you haven’t done, or where you haven’t been. I know what 26.2 means, but I know my wife, Lauren doesn’t. And I know for sure Mr. Tatto has no idea that 26.2 means the driver with the sticker
has run a marathon. But it’s not about the stickers.

Ms. Dudeck teaches chemistry and forensics at the high school. You might expect to find a sticker of some test tubes on the back of her little car. But I have double checked my data, and have found no stickers.
Ms. Dudeck told me that when she was seven years old she was watching TV with her uncle. Her uncle leaned over to her and said, “Sherry, if you could have any dream come true right now, any dream, what would it be?”. The seven year old Ms. Dudeck thought carefully… and then she said, “I wish I could have some popcorn. And a bowl of melted butter so I can dip each
piece of popcorn into the butter!” So she and her uncle watched the rest of their show dipping each kernel into the melted butter.

Ms. Dudeck shared with me, and now graduates, I share with you: When you have a dream you need to pursue it at the moment you dream it. A child’s dream doesn’t have as much meaning when you are teen. A teen’s dreams may not be the dreams of an adult. When Ms. Dudeck was seven she ate popcorn kernels dipped in butter.

At high school graduation she dreamed to teach chemistry.In her twenties she walked the Appalachian Trail. In her thirties she became a merchant marine.
What’s next? Siberia in the winter? Oh she did that over February break.
But on the back of her car there is no bumper sticker proclaiming “Popcorn”, “Appalachian Trail” or “Siberia”. When you do it for yourself, you don’t need a sticker. Just follow those dreams when you dream them.

Local Roads

I love driving! I am a physics teacher. There’s always something for me to think about. How the work done by the 4 cylinder 95 horsepower engine is being used to work against mechanical and fluid friction noting that my drag coefficient is 2% lower with the windows closed versus open in order to maintain a constant velocity of 65 mph. This is me driving down 684 to work. I have one hand out the window flying my hand up and down in the wind, my
mind is calculating how far the car behind me is using the passenger side mirror that says “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”. But don’t worry, I’m not texting!

Graduates, you may want to avoid highways. Not only because there are a lot of physics teachers out there, but also when you look out the window the road goes by in a blur. Some of you have set goals already.

For Matt Schwartz, it’s into the work force. Riahan Miah, violin performance. Kyra Berger and Chloe LeComte, engineering. Vincent Zafonte, military. Dan Dietrich and Tim Zarras, art. Sophie Gamer and Lizzy Benway, medicine. And Zoe Jobe, law. But most of you aren’t really sure.

Whether you do or not, don’t be in such a hurry to find your life’s work. Take your time and enjoy navigating and sharing the journey. Don’t let it go by in a blur. Some 15 years ago I took an exit off of my career highway, and a lot of things came into focus. I clearly saw that I am a teacher. Graduates when you pursue your life’s work, go slow, keep it all in focus, and take an exit or two.


This graduating class is an amazing group of young men and women.

Over the past 18 years your parents, grandparents, families, friends, teachers and coaches have helped you along the way. Today marks the day when you begin to take your first steps on your own. I know that many of you may be feeling nervous thinking about your future. But I know you can do it. Let
me share some of my data that tells me you are ready.

Our graduates can handle how life is not easy. They honored coach Mac at the beginning of senior year and they recognized Mrs. Jane Wilkinson, who is currently fighting the tough battle against cancer, by naming her this year’s most inspirational teacher.

Our graduates are courageous and are willing to support each other. I will never forget when Jackie Colao stood in front of our class and spoke from her heart. Or when Will Trawick was carried back from the Section 1AA Final Four basketball game on the shoulders of his teammates after the tough loss. Graduates, you are always there for each other. I thought I had seen it all from this class – hard work, kindness, spirit, courage, respect – letting me know that you are ready to take the next step. But you surprised me yet again.

Last Tuesday afternoon after most exams were finished, I bumped into Robbie Shilstone in Mrs. Kranz’s art room. Robbie is a big, gregarious, senior athlete, who sings “We are taking the Hobbits to Isenguard” with his friend Will, eats at least 8 square meals a day, paints, and takes on tough academic challenges. I wondered why he was still here.

He showed me. He showed me a beautiful portrait of Mrs. Wilkinson that he had painted, the teacher I mentioned a moment ago battling cancer. Robbie was getting ready to drive over to Mrs. Wilkinson’s home to give her the portrait he
made for her.

Above all… above all, this class shows compassion, and they honestly care about people. They care about each other, and they care about us. And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? So it is without hesitation that I say this class is ready to take the next step. So as your last bell rings today at 2:21, congratulations to Fox Lane’s graduating class of 2012!


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