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Teachers start new tradition at 2006 graduation

June 12, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - For the first time in the high school's history, the Berkeley Springs High School graduation class was led by 25 teachers, also dressed in caps and gowns, as part of the graduation ceremony.

The ceremony was May 27 at the high school.

Social studies teacher Kate Stotler said a small group of faculty members, including Sarah Morris, Pete Gordon, Candice Blanchard and Stotler, thought it would be neat to have more of a faculty presence by wearing hoods and robes and walking in first, she said.

The teachers wore black gowns and caps, and wore hood colors combining the university they attended and the color their degree represents, she said.

The graduating class wore navy blue. The school colors are navy blue and gold, she said.

The teachers walked two by two, she said, and two lines were formed for the graduating seniors to walk through.

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The seniors were not aware the teachers had planned the pass-through and many hugged and shook hands as they walked through, she said.

"When you spend four years with these kids, they become part of your family, and on the very biggest day of their high school career, I wanted to be there, and we all felt that," Stotler said.

"We wanted to be an identifiable presence," she said.

Former students who are in college visit the teachers, Stotler said.

"Kids come and visit all the time and tell me 'all the things I learned in your class I'm using in my college classes,' or some have said, 'I wish I worked harder when I was here,'" she said.

Stotler said this was meant to be an encouragement for all the high school students to further their education.

Brice Williams, who teaches theater and drama, said, "It was a great incentive for me. When I graduated, the professors wore caps and gowns, and that's when I knew I was part of that group. This was a great incentive for the kids."

"There are two parts to doing this," he said. "One, as faculty members it shows we are in solidarity with the students; and two, it shows by our wearing the robes of the school we graduated with the colors of the degree we earned, is the incentive that they can go on with their education. Wearing a uniform symbolizing the academic achievement shows the students everybody can achieve," Williams said.

Blanchard, a guidance counselor, said some of the band members told her "it was so neat for them to see," she said, and other students said they did not realize how much education the teachers received.

She said the guidance counselors push post-secondary awareness and tell the students about what opportunities are available through higher education.

"We want them to know their options and make them knowledgeable. It's an extra push for self-esteem," she said.

Berkeley Springs High School principal George Ward said the teachers processing in caps and gowns was "one more of many motivators" to show the students the importance of furthering their education.

"It adds a lot, and it elevates the importance of the ceremony to a more relevant degree," Ward said.

Laura Hovermale, secondary curriculum director of Morgan County Schools, said 143 of the 148 graduating seniors participated in the ceremony. Hovermale said the West Virginia Board of Education's Higher Education Policy Commission told her about 43.3 percent of the high school's 2004 graduating class were entering college. No statistics were available for the class of 2005, she said.

Stotler said students have told her, "'You have to come do it again next year at my graduation,' and that's when I knew it was the right thing to do, and it is now a tradition," she said.

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