Upper School Grade 9 Dean and History Department Chair David Hertzinger delivered the faculty address to the Class of 2019 at the school's Commencement ceremonies. Each year, the senior class selects one faculty member to address them during the Commencement program in Nash Athletic Center. Cat Evans, Nina La Ferla, Carl Najdek, Joanne Bartsch, and David Dvorscak have also had the honor in recent years. This is the second time David has been asked to deliver the address; the first was in 2012.
David has worked at Carolina Day School since 2010. Prior to teaching, David coached gymnastic competitive teams and was a nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialist for the US Army and the Indiana Army National Guard, where he served for two years active duty and four in the guard. David also worked for Target Corporation for 10 years, as a Logistics executive for the southeast region. David was awarded the Senior Prize for 2011-2012 and the Dr. W. Leon Elliston Upper School Faculty Professional Development Award for 2012-2013. In his online profile, he says, “Although it took some time, I have found my calling!”
His 2019 Commencement remarks focused on the student-teacher relationship at Carolina Day and the value of our school's special community. His remarks, in their entirety, are as follows:
"I know that as I stand here today, most of you are thinking, I hope this is going to be quick. I promise that I will not take too much of your time—and I know that more than anyone else in this room, the seniors are ready to get this over with as soon as possible. But this is an incredibly important moment in their lives and in the life of every school, so I believe that it is proper for us to take a moment to reflect on the significance of this occasion. Commencement is one of the few coming-of-age milestones that young people have in our culture and we should not diminish its significance for the sake of time. So graduates, I ask that—in your excitement to get this over with as quickly as possible—you do take these few minutes to look backwards and to be appreciative of the past as you so eagerly look forward to your future.
As you reflect on your past, I want you to think of those who have stood by your side through everything and have helped you reach this moment. Think of those who could not be with us today to celebrate in this milestone, but who nonetheless contributed to your successes and helped shape you into the young people you are today. Look at those sitting in the audience who will travel with you into the future that lies ahead. Also, take a minute to notice those who you will be leaving behind as you graduate from CDS.
As a history teacher, I have spent a large portion of my life looking at the cause and effect relationships between events. I have tried through many stories to help you understand that things do not happen in a vacuum, but are like a series of stones that have been thrown into a pond. Some of the ripples collide with each other at certain points and yet some just simply fade into the distance. There have been many people who, over the years, have come and gone in your lives, but they have all played some in role making you into the people you are today. These encounters may have been small or even grand, but the important thing is what you have learned from each, and or how they have changed and molded you into the people before us today.
For a variety of reasons, life brought you to CDS and into our care. Some of you have been here since Pre-K and others came into our community at varying stages along the way. Although each one of us has a different story to play out, there are moments when the plots of our lives intersect. I am thankful for this and honored to have been a part of your story. The story of your life will continue to be written as you leave this place. Many of the secondary characters will change throughout this lifelong story; this is why I believe it is important at points of transition to take a moment to look back before looking forward. I hope that when the excitement of this day fades you will look back and realize how special this place is and how deeply loved you were while being a part of this community.
Everyone always asks about CDS and what makes it so special. Let’s be honest: they wonder why people pay what they do to send their kids here. It always amazes me when people struggle to answer this question. It’s not that they don’t feel it’s worth it, it’s that they have trouble articulating what exactly it is. So I am going to take a moment to help define it for you. This way, when you are asked about where you went to high school, you can say with pride that you went to CDS, and you will be able help others understand why a community like this is so special.
So here we go... CDS is a simply a community that does everything to put the needs of students first. I know that this sounds too simple, but it is true. Every decision made, every sacrifice committed by the faculty, everything we do is for our kids. When your teachers gave up their lunch periods to offer help, when they stopped grading or doing their work during their free periods to listen to one of you talk about the struggles of growing up, when they sought you out and helped you advocate for yourself, when they did everything in their power to create a place that you felt safe to be yourself, they were putting the needs of students first. This is what everyone means when they talk about the student/teacher relationships at CDS. It is the things we do outside of class that matter the most. It is the life skills we teach and nurture in you that make this place special. It is modeling for you behavior that is more than just appropriate behavior in a certain social situation; it is demonstrating the type of community that we all hope to be a part of as we journey through life together. A community that values everyone’s opinions—not that you have to agree with everyone—but that you have respect for those who see the world through a different lens. It is about feeling valued and respected and knowing that this place understands that kids make mistakes and that there is real learning through one’s struggles. It is knowing that you will belong that makes this community worth it. It is knowing that you can be you and it will be celebrated. This is what makes this such a special place. A community that you should be proud to belong to, a type of community that I hope you find in other areas of your life.
There are some outside the walls of this place who may think that the life skills and values which I just listed are too fluffy or that CDS is not rigorous enough. To them I simply say this: just because we value our students beyond simple numbers or grades does not mean that the time spent in our classes is not important. It clearly is; just look at the the graduates in front of us today. If anyone has any doubt about the quality of education provided by Carolina Day, just talk to them. Talk to them about their accomplishments, their passions, and the schools they are attending in the fall. Talk to them about the quality of the education that they have received. At CDS education is more about the life lessons and skills that we impart to our students than just the typical content of the individual courses. We do everything in our power to prepare our kids for the world outside this place, while challenging them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be—that’s the value of a CDS education. That is the value of being a part of a community like this, and why it is so important that we clearly articulate it when those who do not share these values voice their opinions.
There is no cookie-cutter graduate at CDS. We do not aspire to create a stereotypical graduate who would be indistinguishable from all other graduates. What we do best is meet students where they are, continue to push them to perform at their highest level, along the way encouraging them to question everything, especially us. Our graduates leave here realizing that there is no single easy answer to life’s problems. That there is no magic bullet that can easily solve the problems that face the world they are about to inherit. They know to be leery of any snake charmer promising to have all the answers or telling them to simply blindly follow and not ask questions. Our kids, our graduates, are independent thinkers, who relish in asking questions and want to make a meaningful difference in the world—a difference that is unique to each and everyone of them.
So graduates, as you get ready to leave us and walk out those doors, I want you to think about the community you are leaving. You may not appreciate it now, but at some point in your life you will look back and realize what you had here. I say this to you today so that you will look for similar communities throughout the rest of your life. Communities where people support one another and celebrate in each other’s successes. Communities that understand the importance of working together to reach a common goal. Communities that celebrate diversity, where differences of opinion are respected. I hope that you look for a community that understands that no one person has all the answers, and where often the best solutions are found through compromise.
Looking out in this audience, I see a group of people who all have different backgrounds, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and the list goes on and on. But what all of us have in common is the belief that your education is one of the single most important things that you can be given in your life. In this community, the teachers, administrators, and your parents have worked together to help make this possible. I am not naive enough to think that every one of you have taken full advantage of this gift that your parents and guardians have sacrificed to make happen over the years. But I know that the seeds have been planted for a life of learning and an insatiable desire to ask why. I hope as you go on to your next journey that you will look to the past while trying to find the answers for future problems. Remembering that when you learn in a supportive community and learn from the collective knowledge of past experiences, you are never blindly going into the future.
Class of 2019, know that I will miss you, our school will miss you, but we know that no matter where you go, no matter what you do in life, there will be a part of CDS that is always with you. We will always be part of each other’s story. So when someone asks you went to school, I hope that you will say with pride and love that you went to Carolina Day. And if you are asked to explain why you feel this way, I hope you will talk about the importance of a community like this.
So on behalf of those sitting in front of you today, let me say congratulations and we wish you all the best. Thank you!"
Thank you, David, for reminding us of just how special our school is.