Baraboo High School’s seniors finished their high school careers on Friday night in the school’s gymnasium.
The school’s Class of 2022, which features 224 graduates, crossed the stage at an 8:00 p.m. ceremony. Three summa cum laude seniors spoke at the graduation prior to the diploma distribution, as well as school principal Glenn Bildsten, district board president Kevin Vodak, and Superintendent Rainey Briggs.
One of the graduating speakers, Eric Gumz, delivered a speech titled “Legacy, or What We Leave Behind.” He mentioned “Dreams” — a 1977 rock song by Fleetwood Mac — citing the lyrics “like a heartbeat drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had.”
“I could say that we are going on to the next chapter of our lives, and we are,” said Gumz. “But those chapters that we’ve already written don’t leave us behind. They don’t disappear. They follow us around. We will always have what we had here.”
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The next senior speaker, Samantha Walter, had a more future-based approach with her “Wherever You Go...” address.
“We might say that failure is the opposite of success,” said Walter. “I think it goes deeper than that. Our relationship with failure begins with how we define success. In every schedule we chose and college application we filled out, we made decisions based on how we, individually, can be successful.”
Walter added that she asked fellow graduates their opinions on what leads to success. She said her most common responses were hard work, knowledge, and having good connections.
“Success is not just a measure of these things,” she said. “Success is decided by your relationship with failure.”
Joseph Philip, the final student speaker, presented the Class of 2022’s partnership with the school’s technology department to give a “state of the art” projection system to the high school as a class gift. Philip said the new system will allow the school to project from the stage inside the gymnasium instead of the gym’s floor.
Five students will be joining the U.S. military following graduation. Two will join the Navy, two more will join the Army National Guard and one is headed to the Army.
“Over the past couple years, you have faced uncertainty, adversity, challenges, and some disappointment,” said Bildsten to the graduates. “You’ve had to be creative, learn new ways of doing things, and be adaptive and resilient. Those are quality skills that will benefit you your entire lifetime.”
Bildsten’s daughter, Claire, was one of the graduating seniors.
The Winnebago Sons, a music group from the city, performed the “Ho-Chunk Flag Song” along with the speeches.
Briggs began by highlighting a litany of skills and knowledge the graduating seniors have gained as well as asking school staff members in attendance to stand for a round of applause.
“Most importantly, I think you have learned what it means to grow mentally, physically, and to be inspired, engaged, and prepared to be global citizens in this ever-changing world,” said Briggs.
He also advised the graduating class to sustain a high work ethic, maintain humility, smile as often as possible, show courtesy and respect, and “seize the moment.”
Kelley Williams, a first grade teacher at East Elementary School in Baraboo, received the Distinguished Elementary Teacher of the Year Award, which is presented by Andy Hauge of the Baraboo High School Class of 1956, in partnership with the school district. Williams has taught in the same classroom for 28 years and enjoys seeing how her students grow not only as her students, but as they progress through Baraboo schools.
“First grade is my favorite grade,” said Williams. “They learn so much and I teach for a very selfish reason. I see a lot of light bulbs go on throughout the year and they just are so much fun. To watch them grow and change and learn and to see them progress throughout the years is one of the nice things about staying in the same district for a long time.”
District communications director Liz Crammond added that Williams has hosted high school students interested in careers in education and helped them learn about becoming teachers.
“She not only mentors our students that are in her classroom, but students in our district help them learn about the career, which is amazing,” said Crammond.
“Seeing the love that people have for her, whether it’s her former students or the students she has now, or even the teachers she has worked with because she had her kids, kind of shows a lot about who she is as a person, who she is as an educator, and what she brings to the table to make sure that our future educators or our world is a better place with the young ones that we have coming through our system,” Briggs said of Williams.
Andy Hauge, a member of the Class of 1956, established the Distinguished Elementary Teacher of the Year award. In conjunction with the award, Williams received a $2,900 professional development stipend from the Distinguished Elementary Teacher Award fund, managed by the Community Foundation of South Central Wisconsin.
Dave Haseley, who is finishing up his 33rd year as an English teacher at Baraboo High School, received the Excellence in Education Award, another honor established by the Class of 1956, presented in partnership with the district. Haseley, who mostly teaches juniors and seniors in various literature and writing courses, bonds with his students through his love of baseball, along with his course material.
“My students recognize that I have a passion for literature, a passion for what I do, a passion for baseball, and that it’s OK to have passions and to share them,” said Haseley. “Students want to know who you are beyond what you’re telling them. That’s the No. 1 goal of ours is to let them see us as people and why we love what we do.”
Haseley added that continued gratitude from former students, including one that made an appearance as a substitute at Baraboo High School, is something that keeps him going as a teacher.
“It means a lot because you are nominated by people who know how you conduct yourself and know how you care about students,” said Haseley. “Every teacher does so much that there’s always that moment of, ‘Well, why me? She does this so much better and he does this.’ Ultimately, it’s just nice to take a breath and think about the people you have worked with.”
“Our mission in our district is to prepare and to inspire and engage our kids to be in an ever-changing world,” said Briggs. “Dave is the epitome of that. When you really think about the things we heard about Dave today, the people he has in his life, the people that just continue to say all the wonderful things he has contributed to in terms of our students.”
Haseley's award came with a $3,300 stipend from the Class of 1956's fund.
NOTE: This story was edited to include information from Gene Rau, a fund advisor on behalf of the Baraboo High School Class of 1956.