2009 was a year tinged with larger-than-life dreams, promise, and change––the energy of a beginning. This year’s graduates were back in the 2nd grade, in Zach Bernard’s inaugural class as a lead teacher. Together they set out to capture the spirit of 2009 in a time capsule, marking down their memories and their plans, and setting a hopeful tone for the decade ahead.
On the cusp of their graduation, these 14 students returned to Mr. Bernard’s classroom to face who they were a decade ago and to take a moment, as a group, to reflect on who they’ve become so far.
"Even though I get to see these students in the hallways, and say “hello” here and there,” said Zach Bernard, “the truth is, I don’t feel like I really know them as young adults. Having an opportunity to find out what their hopes and dreams are for their lives as they leave the Head-Royce community is really exciting for me.”
As the group of seniors squatted down into the child-sized classroom chairs, they joked about how much they’d grown––physically. They loaded up their plates with salad and sandwiches and told Mr. Bernard their plans for the summer and beyond, all giddily anticipating the big reveal.
From the capsule sprang a yellowed issue of USA Today depicting Obama’s historic win, the headline “A Dream Fulfilled.” Next, cheery handmade cards brightened the room. The seniors had long forgotten how they’d planned and crafted the cards thanking their beloved teacher and peers. A few faded and long-forgotten stuffed animals emerged next. About the stuffies, the students remarked that what had once seemed so important could still provide a sense of comfort. Even a stuffed Tuffy found its way up and out of the capsule––the same sort of toy that brand-new Jayhawks receive in Kindergarten.
"2009 was a really special school year and Sam D., Susan C., and I were Mr. Bernard’s room parents,” said Elna H., mother of Ryan H. ’19, “Mr. Bernard’s energy and his intuition with the kids is what stood out for all of us. He has this great ability to meet kids where they’re at, and is a great listener, and shows a lot of empathy. The students feel very cared for and respected, and it is that specifically, and I speak for myself here, that has given Ryan such an amazing sense of self-confidence that I know is going to serve him well once he leaves Head-Royce.”
Although burying the time capsule initially “felt abstract,” admitted Mr. Bernard, it became a way to reflect on the special gift of teaching and learning in a K–12 setting. “It helped me feel the value of teaching in a K–12 institution in a very concrete way for the first time. My work has come full circle.”