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Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

The other morning, I was taking attendance when I heard some of my students talking about graduations they were attending for family members. I kept hearing them talk about valedictorian speeches and what was said. More than anything else, I could tell they were most fascinated by the advice being imparted to the audience. 

I glanced up to see Haylie smiling and asking, “Ms. Brinkman, what would you say if you were valedictorian and giving a speech to our class?”

That got me thinking. 

Every May, the world is wrapped up in beginnings disguised as endings. Graduation is a major theme of the month and it is very common for people to have an interest in valedictorian speeches. I sat down later that night and began to type…..

To the class of 2032

Drink water! First and foremost! As Arizonans, if I could offer you one tip for the future, water each day would be it. Your body needs it and it is the cure for many things. Why do you think my answer to many things was to drink water?

With seven more days left together, I am reflecting on our time together in room 37 and have some thoughts to share with all 26 of you:

Dream big. The possibilities are endless, no matter what others tell you.

Read. Books are a connection to the past and a glimpse of the future. A book is a lovely way to escape.

Be brave. Even when it can be tough to do so.

Vote. Your voice counts.

Be careful about the company you keep.

Remember the compliments others give and don't pay too much attention to the negative things people say about you. 

Eat your veggies.

Hug your parents and help them out around the house. Don't stay mad at them for too long if you have a conflict. Your parents only want what is best for you.

Take care of your teeth; it hurts when you don't!

Respect the elderly and take the time to hear their stories. They are a wealth of information.

Don't waste your time comparing yourself to others. It only makes you feel worse.

Always be YOURSELF. You are unique and part of this world for a reason.  

Commit to being a lifelong learner; knowledge can never be taken away from you.

Practice gratitude.

Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Don't watch too much TV.

LAUGH OFTEN. It is great medicine for yourself and others.

Travel. The world is filled with places that share you and change you for the better. 

Hard work always pays off.

But trust me on the water.

About the Author

Rebecca Brinkman is a fourth-grade teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taught at the same school for her entire 17-year career. Her campus is a second home and it has a strong family feel to it. This is what draws her back every year. She is excited to begin her “Sweet 16th” year of teaching! She has taught 2nd grade for ten years and 3rd grade for six years. She has served as a team lead on her campus for six years. She earned a Masters in Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, as well as a Masters in Reading. She also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Arizona State University.


Rebecca achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2019 in Early to Middle Childhood Literacy. She is passionate about building relationships and creating magic in the classroom for her scholars. She credits her former speech teacher as her reason for becoming an educator. She profoundly impacted her attitude towards school and self-esteem as a young student; Rebecca realized she wanted to make that same impact on children by helping them realize their strengths and pushing through personal challenges.


Her second biggest passion is travel! She can often be found planning her next big adventure. She also enjoys hiking, reading, storytelling with The Moth, volunteering and bucket listing. The quote that resonates most with her is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.”

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This is AMAZING!! Words of wisdom.

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