UNION TOWNSHIP | Paula Rukavina told the crowd gathered in the Wheeler High School gym Sunday afternoon that it's not unusual for her to participate in commencement.
She usually, she said, gives students the "Seize the Day" speech.
Sunday was different.
Rukavina was not only a teacher, but sponsored the class of 2015 during its four-year tenure at the high school. While they graduated Sunday, she has retired.
They are both moving on, she told them.
"You have completed my life and gave me the security of belonging," said Rukavina, nearly tearing up.
"It is hard to say goodbye. I love each and every one of you. Each of you have been given the knowledge and opportunity to lead your life to the extraordinary," Rukavina told them.
Then she sang to them one last time, "Saying GoodBye," usually performed by The Muppets.
The class of 2015, said Principal Don Gandy, is an extraordinary one.
He told the graduates, their friends and family, the three words he would use to describe the class are "phenomenal, positive leadership."
The class of 2015 had the highest academic achievement ever of a Wheeler graduating class, holding the highest grade point average as a class in the last nine years and sends 21 of its 121 members to the Academic Hall of Fame.
"I have grown to learn about you, love you, be challenged by you," Gandy told the class.
Senior class officers Angel Adams and Lindsey Arndt addressed the class as well as summa cum laude graduates Alex Asher, Nathaniel Gensel, Hailey Morgan, Denis Ribordy and Katie Wong. Wheeler High School teacher Ben Boruff served as the commencement speaker.
Arndt told her peers that WHS "very much embodies the family atmosphere. You are not just a number here. You're a face and a personality."
"As a class, we have created a generation that will change the world," Adams said.
Boruff encouraged the graduates to remain creative, intelligent, compassionate and original.
"Embrace imaginative thinking and never feel bad for being me, for being an individual. Originally is a rare commodity," said Boruff. "It has been an honor to be your teacher."