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He said, “Connection. Empathy. Relationships. Inspiration. Growth. Above all else these are the principles that matter. The adoption of these principles will allow you to become more than a spectator of growth. You will become a catalyst of change. Embrace connection.”

Read his speech here:

Good Morning Everyone,

Welcome to my speech, I call this speech, using fancy vocabulary while speaking to the people who taught that fancy vocabulary. 

My name is Joshua Loehr, I am a senior at Discovery Canyon High School, a lifelong student of Academy district 20, and the son of a teacher of more than 20 years. Today I'm here to offer some 17-year-old wisdom in hopes of encouraging all of you for the 2022-2023 school year. 

Youth is a time of transformation and change.  I am not the same person who wandered into kindergarten 12 years ago. I have transformed and changed into the person you see today. I no longer chew at the erasers of my pencils; however, I don't go anywhere without my gum. I no longer cry when I lose at 4-square, although I do still tear up a little bit. My voice no longer cracks or waivers when I speak -- knock on wood. I no longer forget my backpack at home; however, my homework still goes missing often. And, even though I still show up to school late or not at all, I argue that I was just practicing for my senior year. 

In these last 12 years I have grown so much but nobody grows without others. Who I am today, is a coalescence of all the most impactful people in my life.  An amalgamation of my parents, my friends, and coincidentally all of you, my teachers. 

To teach is to inspire growth

I think back to the teachers I have had during my years. So many have inspired growth within me. 

My 4th grade homeroom teacher Mr. Tracy inspired me to grow in my grace and kindness. My 8th grade history teacher Mr. Harms inspired me to chase my passions but never forget to enjoy the journey. My High School DECA teacher Mrs. Willy challenged me to grow as a leader and more importantly as a human. Without a doubt I can assure you, whether you are teaching carpentry or calculus, that the work you are doing is changing lives. I can assure you this because I wouldn’t be standing here without that work,      

I would probably be sleeping. 

Undoubtedly, this year will present challenges and opportunities unlike any before.  It will be new and different in fun and frightening ways. 

However, one thing is for certain. 

You will change lives. There is no getting around that. However, it is not certain in what ways you will change your students' lives. That part is up to you. 

Pericles once said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but woven into the hearts of others.”

Your legacy will live through the hearts of your students. Your values will become a part of them. And those values will become a part of the world's identity. 

I ask you today, what will be your legacy? What will be the message that you weave into the hearts of others? 

Will it be anger, impatience, and judgment? 


Will you instill values of peace, goodwill, and balance? 

I am personally a big fan of the second one. 

Now it won’t be easy, but neither is teaching.

For guidance, I turn you to the wise words of good old Teddy Roosevelt, “People do not care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.” 

Connection. Empathy. Relationships. Inspiration. Growth. Above all else these are the principles that matter. The adoption of these principles will allow you to become more than a spectator of growth. You will become a catalyst of change. 

Embrace connection. That is what Teddy Roosevelt encouraged of us 131 years ago and that is what I encourage of you today. 

I would like to end this speech with a very short story. There was once a boy. He was 10 or 11. He loved basketball almost as much as he loved a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He had a crush on the girl with blonde hair and a blue pencil case, the one he sat behind in homeroom. His two front teeth were missing. His favorite color was purple, but not a lame purple, a cool purple like the purple of Mace Windu’s lightsaber. However, he couldn’t pronounce the letter R. He would pronounce recess as “w-esess,” rainbows as “w-ainbows,” and rabbit as “w-abbit.” And so, one day his parents made him go to a speech therapist at his school. They met once a week and they would work. 

6 or 7 years later that boy stood up on this stage and gave a speech to all of you. That speech was regarding the real and radiant reach that a teacher realizes through really inspiring relationships.

Growth is possible.

Inspire it. 

Thank you.