Head of School’s Graduation Address
Dear Bialik Graduates of 2021,
Mazal tov to you all!
.כל הכבוד על המאמץ, העבודה, הנחישות, והאכפתיות שהביאו אתכם לרגע הזה
Completing your time at Bialik represents a wonderful accomplishment, one which should give you and your families a tremendous sense of pride. This is true of every graduating class, of course, but all the more so for the class of 2021, as the home stretch of your Bialik experience has been so unique.
But before I talk about you, permit me a few words about another graduation of sorts. Martha Fleury, the much-loved art teacher at our Viewmount Branch is retiring. Students over the past 26 years have been inspired by her passion for art, the encouragement she always provided to those struggling to find their muse, and her ability to nurture creative inspiration from even the most reticent artists among us. On a personal level, she was an important mentor to my daughter when she was a Bialik student, and even got me to pick up the pastels when I joined a Grade 6 trip to Camp George. I still have that picture framed in my office. Even in retirement, Martha continues to contribute to the Bialik community, now making a generous donation to the school to support art programs and tuition support. Martha has been battling some health issues these past few years, and we wish her nothing but health and happiness in her retirement.
It is important to acknowledge, here as a whole school, that we are celebrating with the first graduating class from our Himel Branch. Combined with an unusually large graduating cohort from Viewmount, we have a record number of 90 graduates! This number is sure to be surpassed in the years to come, but for now it represents the high-water mark of Bialik enrolment and graduation. Kol Hakavod to us all!
Constituting another record are the 18 Bialik alumni who have children graduating this evening. 18 — Chai — is an auspicious number in our tradition, and it is indeed wonderful that so many of our graduates represent the second generation of connection to Bialik. We look forward to the moment in another 25 years or so when these graduates return themselves as alumni parents, and we can celebrate the third generation of Bialik grads.
Now, graduating students, as you know…this pandemic has presented us with some remarkable challenges! After what for many of you have been nine relatively uneventful — or at least “normal” — years at Bialik, the lead-up to your graduation has been marked by a global pandemic, physical distancing, at-home learning, and seemingly endless Zoom sessions. As the years pass, previous generations of grads may have trouble remembering the specifics of their final year at Bialik. But, no matter how old you grow, you will have no trouble recalling the peculiar circumstances of the last fifteen months.
The creation of strong memories is a powerful thing. Ask your parents or grandparents where they were when world history was made: the fall of the Berlin Wall, or perhaps September 11, 2001. They will certainly remember these moments, where they were, and what they were doing when they occurred.
The same is true about important events in our personal lives. The moments of joy and sorrow that punctuate our lifetimes serve as time-markers around which we order the rest of our experiences. “That was just after your brother was born.” “That was the last time I visited my grandmother.” “That was two months before we moved into our new house.”
And so now, the Coronavirus and your unprecedented Grade 8 experience will become one of those defining moments in your lives. It is true that being confined to your cohorts and homes, and finishing your Senior Division studies from a distance hasn’t been ideal. You have been separated from your friends and relatives, hockey teams and dance troupes. And there really is only so much Netflix a person can watch.
But I hope you have found that this physical distancing regimen has also brought some positives into your lives as well. Time to spend with your parents and siblings. A chance to rediscover the simple pleasures of reading, gardening or cooking. Even the fun of attending school in your pyjamas or taking a nap in the middle of the day.
Whatever your take on this past year, we know that you will always associate your Bialik graduation with Zoom ceremonies and diplomas distributed from a distance. Good, bad, weird, the experience is unique and will be one of those milestones that mark your lives. You probably already know what you will remember from “those crazy months before I graduated from Bialik.” How exciting, now, to see what memories you’ll make as you move on to the next chapter and begin high school.
!אנחנו – מורים וצוות בית הספר, יחד עם הוריכם – מאד גאים בכם
No matter what the future holds, with its experiences and highlights to remember, we wish you הצלחה ובריות!
Congratulations on all your wonderful achievements. We are quite certain there are many more to come!