2020 Graduation Letters

Teachers and administrators’ parting messages to the Class of 2020

Mr. Ashwin Corattiyil, Dean of Students, Senior Class Principal & Government Teacher


I am so proud of you! You made every single day of my Sycamore experience better, from your freshman year through your final year. Seeing you in the hallways was the best part of my job. You exhibited as much motivation, pride, humor, talent, maturity, compassion, and selflessness as any class that has ever been at SHS. Above all, the Class of 2020 exuded ‘character.’ I say that because I believe character is something that evolves only in adversity. You faced more unique adversity than possibly any high school class in history. You emerged stronger, more reflective, and with a greater perspective on yourselves and the world around you. I can’t imagine how it feels to be you and have gone through what you just went through. But you’ve chosen the path of positivity and hope. You’ve chosen to look forward, not backward. For this, you’ll have my lifelong admiration.

I’m truly humbled and honored to have been your class administrator for four years. I’ll miss you ALL. You inspire me. Be Yourselves; Be Great; Be Aves!     -Mr. Corattiyil


Mr. Tom Gaffigan, English Teacher

You have been presented with the burden of living in interesting times: pandemic, confusion, uncertainty, BS, heroism. It had to be you.

The usual rites of passage are not happening for the Class of 2020 and I am sorry for you because marking passage across the threshold from SHS to whatever is ahead is a grand time for most grads, but not this time. We cannot polish this up. You get to live through history, and that, it turns out, is a bitch. From hard times you will gain perspective: everything is precarious and the usual landmark events are fragile; all the important things that we take for granted can stop.

What is certain is that we’ll get through these times. In getting through them, you may have the occasional dark night of the soul, but you can move toward the sunrise and turn outward to make someone else’s day better, lift someone up, alleviate their loneliness. 

Call someone who will be glad to hear from you. 

So, lean into the hit. Take the pain and remember it. Sharpen your appreciation for what matters to you and others and steel yourself to work toward an optimistic future. You’re ready.


Mr. Stanley Kaniecki, Math Teacher

Dear Class of 2020,

I can’t believe that this is the final way that I’m going to communicate with you this year.  Seems a bit surreal, everything that is happening, almost like we are living in some alternate universe.  I am saddened as I think about all the events that you cherish at the end of your high school career, all gone in an instant, taken from you with no concrete way of actually seeing it.  This wasn’t a tornado that ripped through our town and destroyed homes/schools or a hurricane that flooded our cities and caused a massive shutdown of everything.  It’s hard to fathom because what took away all these things, all these moments that you hoped you would have – baseball games, lacrosse games, track meets, plays, band competitions, field trips, prom, and ultimately, graduation – was basically invisible and our best way to fight it was to stay home, away from all the people who we loved being around everyday.

I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for all of you.  “We are all in this together” has been a phrase thrown around during this pandemic, but truthfully, we are NOT.  It’s like we are all out at sea, facing a giant storm, but everyone has different methods of getting through that storm. Some of you have yachts, others aircraft carriers, others have sailboats, and some of you only a life jacket.  We are all trying to get through this storm in our own way, doing the best we can with what we have.  As I said, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.  I’ve told you that I LOVE my job.  I LOVE coming to work everyday, because of the people I work with and because of the STUDENTS I get to interact with and teach.  That’s the part I miss the most.  I can’t believe I don’t get to see all of you one last time.  The moment that I love, the one I truly cherish each year, is when all the faculty are lined up in the Cintas Center hallway and all of you get to walk by us and I get to say “goodbye”.  It’s really not “goodbye” for me, but more of a “thank you”.  Thank you – for the 4 years you’ve given to Sycamore High School, for the time and effort you’ve put in all the things that you’ve done, and especially, for being the kind of people that make me LOVE coming to work everyday.  I will miss all of you, as I do with every senior class that leaves, but more for this class, as some of the things that helped ease the pain of you leaving never got to happen.

I wish all of you the best.  Know this – having these events taken away from you in your senior year should NOT define you.  If anything, once you get through this, it should help you to appreciate those things even more.  Remember – all of you are battling the same storm in different ways, but the storm has taken away A LOT of the same things from all of you, so in that sense, that’s where “we’re all in this together” actually rings true.  Sycamore isn’t the only school that didn’t get to have those events.  Don’t live in the “negative”, in the “why didn’t we get to have these” or “why did these get taken away from us” world.  That’s out of your control.  All you can do is try to make the best out of the circumstances that have been put in front of you.  How will you choose to respond to this?  THAT will define you.  Not having a prom?  Not seeing your friends for a couple months?  Not seeing your math teacher for the ENTIRE 4th quarter 🙂 ?  Skip Prosser, former Xavier and Wake Forest basketball coach, used to say:  If those are the worst things that happen to you in your life, then you’ll probably have a pretty good life. I believe that.  To the class of 2020 – I love you.  I will miss you.  GO AVES!!!

Mr. Stan Kaniecki


Mr. Mike Gutekunst, Physics Teacher

To the class of 2020….

Each graduating class of Sycamore High School leaves a series of memories behind that form the heart of what I’ll remember about my life as a teacher.  My memories of some graduating classes are forever linked to events of that year, both personal and societal.  For me, I can’t think of some groups of students without also triggering personal memories of the year I got married, or the birth of each of my children.  Similarly, other groups invoke deep societal memories like September 11, 2001, or Stoneman Douglas High School, 2018.  All were events that we went through together – they impacted what the students and I became together.  

For you, the class of 2020, I won’t remember you because you were the “Covid-19 group.”  Yes, we have lived through this experience together, but it is what we have learned through this experience, rather than the experience itself, that will define you in memories.  

I have long believed that the relationships we form in a class –  student-to-student, student-to-teacher – and each class’s personality and sense of humor are what make school a great place.  What I’ve learned from this graduating class is that this belief isn’t a campy, hokey, idealistic myth that I’ve chosen to hang on to.  For you, the students of the Sycamore class of 2020, these relationships have meaning.  They are important to you.  They are important to me.  We, as a whole, are important to each other.  We dragged ourselves out of bed and came to school because we cared about each other.  When school dramatically changed in March, we kept working, we sat through online classes, we talked in more Google hangouts than any human ever thought possible because deep down (and lately, even on the surface) we all care about each other.

For those I’ve come to know best, know that whatever new physics knowledge we’ve acquired at Sycamore is a very minor part of the story.   Instead, know that thanks to you I leave this year convinced that the fundamental reason I chose to be a teacher – to get the chance to build relationships with you all, to watch you grow in your relationships with each other, and to work together to become who we want to be – is just as important to you as it is to me.  And that memory, not Covid-19, is what I will carry with me whenever I think back to the Sycamore class of 2020.  For that gift, I cannot thank you enough!

I will miss you Sycamore High School class of 2020!

With love, respect, and (of course) a “Dad wave,” 

Mike (Mr. G) Gutekunst  


Mrs. Melissa Insko, Teaching Professions Academy

Dear Graduates,

What can I say? You’re the goofiest, quirkiest, most authentic group of young adults I’ve EVER met! Getting to spend this year with you—your senior year—has been among the greatest honors of my life. Thank you for allowing me into your world… I love you each for so many different reasons!

What’s impressed me most about this class is the authenticity with which you present yourselves. You do you, and you don’t apologize for it. All I can say is, “Right on!” As a group, you take care of one another and provide support and cheer. I know that as you venture forth into the world, you will do so with a true family behind you.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that when I first came to SHS, your class was the one I was most anxious about meeting. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time with you or that I wouldn’t be able to forge strong enough relationships with you. Well, I definitely did not have enough time with you, but I think we more than made up for it with the closeness of our friendship. I’m so happy to have gotten to spend this time with you—I can’t wait to see what you do with your lives and how you change the world.

Take care of yourselves and please don’t forget to check in once in a while!

Very sincerely,

Melissa M. Insko


Ms. Julie Haverkos, Physics Teacher & Science Department Chair

To the class of 2020,

In my 32 years as an educator I have known many students and groups of students. I am grateful and blessed that the class of 2020 is one of those groups. Many of you have been with me in physics class, some I’ve known through golf and others through clubs, activities and group conversations with other teachers. You are unique, hard working, talented individuals making up a remarkable group of young people. Never forget that you are the only you who will ever walk the face of the earth. Never be afraid or hesitate to let your light shine and share your extraordinary gifts.

Instead of competing together on the field, gym or track and celebrating together at the prom, senior picnic and graduation, you are communicating electronically and socially distancing at home. Some of you have become teachers at home for your younger siblings and have even had to go to work yourselves to help your own family. You have handled the adversity of finishing high school remotely in a pandemic with maturity and grace. The lessons you have learned through this (and I don’t mean your physics lessons) will help you to deal with adversity in the future. You are stronger than you know. Continue to work hard, put one foot in front of the other, and be the best you can be each day while allowing yourselves grace when you falter and rest when you are weary.

I have found life to be a series of moments, some happy, some sad, some good and some bad. Make the most of those moments, savor the good ones as they will carry you through the bad ones and rest in your memory for a lifetime. Connect with people, enjoy family and friends and be sure to have fun along the way.

Life is a precious journey, reflex often, know what fills you with joy and makes you happy. Choose to serve others and give, but also receive, both are necessary in life. Int his age of social media, think about what you choose to post and what you choose to read and watch. Once you post something, you can’t get it back. Be intentional about where your intention goes, your energy goes where your attention is.

It has been my honor and privilege to serve you, I know that through your hard work and attention you will make our world a better place. I look forward to hearing from you as you commence life after high school.

Go Aves,

Ms. Julie Haverkos