Class of 2019 graduates from The Williams School

New London Joe Cote, an English teacher at The Williams School, looked each of his students in the eye and told them about an aspect he admired in them as he gave his commencement address to the Class of 2019.

He spoke of their kindness, intelligence and compassion, recognizing an aspect of 23 of the 30 members of the class.

"I haven't skipped over anyone," Cote said. "It's just that everyone else that I didn't mention specifically — John, Mike, Nico, Sam, Jiayi, Klaire and Michael — none of you have ever taken my classes! I'm assuming you're all great and I just didn't want to seem insincere."

The teacher then told the crowd he was going to do something unorthodox. He stepped away from the microphone, grabbed a chair and sat down in front of the class. He told the students he loved and appreciated them, wished them luck and then stepped back up to the podium and continued his address.

Students were recognized for their talent and passion for the arts.

One student performed a piano concerto he had written himself. A small group played the theme song of the television show "Friends." One student will go on to vocalist college.

"This is a really amazing class," Dave Guddbrandsen, a math and computer science teacher, said. "I taught some of them in my computer science class and they're really amazing coders and then outside of class so many of them are involved in the arts. That's definitely something that always stuck out to me. These are really good kids."

Students noted that the class's small size helped foster a tight-knit community. The student commencement speaker, Alexandrios Tsipouras of Madison, made special note of it in his speech.

"Our grade is a tightly knit group," Tsipouras said. "We've always been each other's greatest fans and most supportive critics."

Head of School Mark Fader said every member of the class will go on to higher education.

"It's going to be hard moving on from here," Joe Sullivan, a class member, said. "The community here is so strong, and I'm going to miss them all. This place really let us give back to the community. It taught us to be compassionate and left me with a desire to help others. I hope I do." 

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