This is the speech I gave to the Pequannock Township High School Class of 2020 at their Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 19 2020. You can watch the video of the speech here: https://youtu.be/NsGKilAnM78
Good Evening Mr. Portas, Dr. Winning, Mr Blumert, Members of the Board of Education, Mrs. McCarty, Mrs. Mildner , Mr. Silipena, Pequannock Administrators, community dignitaries, Pequannock Township High School faculty and staff, parents, family members, friends, and members of the PTHS Class of 2020.
I’ve been giving speeches now as an Assistant Principal and Principal for the last twelve years. I’ve given speeches at award ceremonies, assemblies, pep rallies, community events, parent nights and graduations. It is a humbling experience and a responsibility that I take great pride in doing, knowing that I represent our students, staff and community. However, I have a confession to make. This graduation speech, my first as the Principal of Pequannock Township High School, is the hardest one I have ever had to write.
This speech was hard to write because what do you say to a class that will go down in history as the toughest, most resilient, class that will ever walk through the doors of Pequannock Township High School. With many of you being born within a few months of September 11, 2001 and now graduating in a global pandemic, you have demonstrated that through the toughest of times, the strength of friendship, family, and community can persevere no matter what lies in your way.
It is hard to write because what do you say to a group of students that I have spent portions of the last seven years of my life with, watching you grow, watching you learn, watching you become young men and women who are ready to take on the world. I remember many of you as 10 and 11 year olds, standing on the pavement outside of PV School with wide eyes, big smiles and an anxious energy that was contagious ready to begin your middle school experience…...and now here you are…..and I have to say goodbye.
Being your Principal this year has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional career. I don’t know how many of you know this but in July I received a tweet from one of you, and it said, “Can you come be our Principal?” It is one of those moments that I will remember for the rest of my life. I’m telling you this because that question that was asked of me changed the course of my career…..and my life. As the Principal of PV I had a choice to make. I could stay in a place where I was comfortable….or I could step outside my comfort zone and take a chance…..seize an opportunity…...challenge myself. I took that tweet very seriously and as I thought about the decision that I would need to make I went to something that usually provides me with guidance and inspiration…..I opened up a book and started reading. The book was entitled “Culturize.” It was given to me by my friend and colleague, Jimmy Casas. In the front cover of the book he had written a message to me that finished with, “Live Your Excellence….Your Friend, Jimmy.” I didn’t really have to read much further to know what I had to do. I think you know what decision I made because seeing your smiles and giving high fives and handshakes to all of you on the first day of school this year will be something I will cherish forever. Watching you cheering for each other at games and pep rallies, seeing you win championships in your activities, seeing you shine in concerts, watching you collaborate and create in your classes, raise awareness for a cause, and most recently to unite in support of our healthcare workers has made me so proud to be your Principal and made me realize that in order to continue to learn and grow, sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone. Those three words brought me here….to this moment.
Some of you may be saying, “I’ve seen “Live Your Excellence before.” Yes, you have. If you have been paying attention to the morning announcements for the last sixty days I end every morning announcement with the words “Live Your Excellence” flashing across the screen. It is my final piece of advice that I leave to you….to the class of 2020 as you leave behind the comfort zone of Pequannock Township High School and step out into a world filled with promise. So what does “Live Your Excellence mean?
To me Live Your Excellence means…
Now I know what you are thinking……”Wow, Mr. Hayzler, I never knew your morning announcements were so deep.”
In all seriousness, rather than saying goodbye to this wonderful class, I’d rather sign off like I’ve been doing in my morning announcements and say “Live Your Excellence.” Thank you for helping me live my excellence with you for the past seven years. I hope that when you look back on your career in the Pequannock Township School District you realize that you were surrounded by people who were helping you begin to Live Your Excellence. Your teachers, coaches, advisors, administrators, community members, parents, friends, family. Continue to surround yourself with people who will challenge you, motivate you, inspire you, support you and love you. You are part of a special family, one that bleeds blue and gold….that will always have your back…..that will celebrate your Panther Pride and are counting on you to Live Your Excellence with those wide eyes, big smiles and anxious enthusiasm that this Principal will always remember you for…...you are already on your way….. Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2020! Let’s Go Panthers!
Mr. Portas, as Principal of Pequannock Township High School, it gives me great pleasure to present to you, the graduating class of 2020!
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.