Letter to Seniors: Derek Burkins

Letter to Seniors: Derek Burkins

Dear TA Class of 2020,

In the photo above, I was just about to graduate from high school, much as you are now.  I think I was there to have my photo taken for graduation or yearbook or something, and it was already hot outside, probably in late May.  So, I was wearing a coat, a tie, and logically, shorts.  I think I even remember walking to school to have this taken since my car was not working (again). 

What I also remember of that time was a mix of excitement and terror, confidence and confusion, looking forward and looking back, wanting to be out of my small town and also feeling like I never wanted to leave.  There were so many things to look forward to, but also so many unknowns that I wasn’t sure how to even begin dealing with them.  Mostly I knew it was the beginning, but also the end, of so many things all at once.  An understandably crazy mix of emotions that I am guessing you are able to relate to right about now.

Luckily, I was able to experience all this surrounded by my classmates and teachers, family and friends, and we got together every day to makes plans and talk about all we had been through and what we thought the future would bring.  We had class day and field day, we had prom and gradation and afterward an all-night party that I remember ended with myself, and a group of my closest friends, watching the sunrise as we sat at the top of our school’s football bleachers.

I fully realize that this is not the same experience you are getting to have, whether you want it or not, and for that I am truly, deeply, sorry.  This is not normal, this is not fun, this is not fair, this is not easy to deal with, this is not what you, or any of us, wanted.  My heart goes out to all of you because you deserve better.

But . . . here is what I know about you and why you will make it through and come out the other side stronger than you went into all this.  In the last four years, I have seen you all have tremendous success in so many different areas.  I have enjoyed your soccer and basketball games, baseball and softball games, and track meets near and far (not to mention all the state championships in multiple sports earned over this time).  There have been fantastic musicals and plays, and every semester a music and arts night that showed how deep the talent of this class goes. From singing and playing musical instruments; to drawing, painting, and sculpting; to cooking amazing food and designing and building beautiful projects in the Design Tech classes.  You have had academic success both through the strength of your efforts as well as the magnitude of your achievements.  You have organized and participated in ongoing community service projects, both for your local communities and for the global community with the Mr. TA pageant and ODW.  You have laughed, you have cried, you have been serious, and you have been silly.  There have been amazing things to see, and a few things that I will never be able to un-see.  It has been a pleasure to watch you learn and grow, achieve your successes, and to be a part of your everyday lives here at TA.  You have helped each other grow as individuals, you continue to take care of each other, and I feel like you have helped me learn to be a better teacher and a better person as well.

Looking ahead to the last month of our time together, however “remote” it may be, I encourage you to look back on your special and meaningful moments of the last eighteen or so years.  Reflect on them, savor them, and share them with your friends and family and other loved ones, whether it be by phone, video, email, or even a letter you write (no, really, I’m serious) and send in the mail.  Take the time to say “thank you” to everyone that was part of those moments.   Finally, I encourage you to be confident in looking toward the future because I think, no I *know*, you are all going to do amazing things.

Please know that I deeply enjoyed our time together at TA, and I wish you all the very best.  Just remember too, regardless of what you decide to do, or where you decide to go, we will be here to support you if you stay and be ready to welcome you home when you return. 

With my admiration for each and every one of you,

Mr. Burkins