Recently, Christina Luccio surprised the kids she taught in pre-K and kindergarten at their fifth-grade graduation. We were there to capture the tears, hugs, and memories shared between teacher, students, and parents. Below is the letter Christina wrote to her students in celebration of the day.
Dear PK-103 and K-111,
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher is having the privilege of watching your students learn and grow over the course of the year. Back in 2007, you began pre-K as three- and four-year-olds. Some of you had never been apart from your families before, some of you were accustomed to being the only child at home, and some of you spoke no English. You were cautious about the novel environment, but at the same time excited and curious to see what it had to offer.
Over the course of that first year together, as well as the second when I had the pleasure of moving up with you collectively to kindergarten, you blossomed as scholars. Letters and sounds soon became words that invited you into the world of reading and writing, giving you strong voices to express yourselves. Shapes, numbers, and colors soon revealed patterns that helped explain your everyday lives. But the growth didn’t stop there.
You grew as individuals too, exploring your independence and what it means to be a kind and caring student, classmate, and friend. At your kindergarten moving-up ceremony, you sang “First Grade, Here We Come” to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and recounted to your families in the audience that you’d “worked very hard, [your] teacher’s so proud.” It was true, and with that, you surged into elementary school ready to take on whatever came your way.
That summer, I accepted another job on staff at Teach For America, the organization that made it possible for me to teach you in the first place, and while I felt it was the right decision, it was a difficult one. To me, you all seemed so grown up, but in reality you were only five and six years old. You had 12 years of school ahead of you, and although I was confident you had a strong foundation upon which to build, I was saddened that I wouldn’t be a part of that future growth.
Fortunately, I still lived in NYC, and your principal and all of the other teachers invited me to come back and visit whenever I could. So I did—even after moving to Chicago in the fall of your fourth-grade year. Those visits were so incredibly special—you read me chapter books, proudly explained your latest science project, and showed me pictures of your families and new siblings.
However, none of those visits was quite as special as today’s, your fifth-grade graduation. Since that first year as your teacher, I always knew I wanted to be here for this day, no matter what. Seeing you walk up onto the stage, I am absolutely blown away by the young adults you’ve become. You have worked so hard and are ready for all that middle school has to offer. But beyond that, you’re wonderful individuals—compassionate, thoughtful, confident. This transformation was no doubt guided by your supportive families and the excellent teachers you’ve had over the past five years. Yet the most important factor in determining who you’ve become is yourselves. In pre-K and kindergarten, our mantra was simple: make good choices. We know that, no matter what might come our way, we can always control our own words and actions to be the people we want to be.
As you venture off to various schools around the city, I hope that you will carry that mantra with you and apply it toward your schoolwork, your friendships, and any other situations you may encounter. With that in mind, your fifth-grade graduation theme really says it best: “There’s no stopping you now.”
Congratulations on your accomplishments, and best wishes for all to come!
All my love,