By TRISTAN BRIGGS

We are a privileged group—those of us who grew up in Keizer. Our city and state provided 13 years of education designed to prepare us for success in ways we often rejected or tried to ignore in our youthful demeanors.

We often complained about the ancient buildings, the packed classrooms that were always too hot or too cold, and of course about homework (or any kind of work for that matter).

In some ways our concerns had some merit—our system is imperfect and needs the support of society, but as my classmates and I neared the end of our public school experience at McNary in 2014 we were starting to realize the most impactful part of our education had not been in the infrastructure or official curricula opportunities—this honored place was held by our teachers and coaches.

Being four years detached and about to graduate college, my respect for the quality of our teachers has only grown. Despite every obstacle in their paths for doing so from logistics to bureaucracy to funding to even some downright mean students, they came to work every single day to give everything of themselves to push us to the greatest success possible. They gave of themselves not only in academic rigor, but in the greater lessons of life that are taught by that vehicle—the value of maximum effort, living a life in service to others, and the respect for each other and our society that is so important to every part of American life.

I will forever remember Coach Hafer running lines with us for what felt like hours to teach our 8th grade football team respect and brotherhood, the Big Four of junior year (Borresen’s Honors American Literature, Tiller’s Pre-Calculus, Hanson’s Honors Chemisr., and, of course,  Litchfield’s AP US History) each pushing us past our intellectual limits to set a foundation for us to achieve academic success based in thoughtful values, Master Sergeant Ellis and his wife serving the human needs of students in ways a normal classroom never could while pushing us all to respect and support each other as an AFJROTC family.

Mrs. Bell loving her students as if her own children and supporting all of us in our individual growth, Coach Fordney and those dreaded Verda Lane 400s and the mental grit they instilled in us, the stories could go on forever as the mosaic of growth that all of us students went through to become who we are today.

As I prepare to enter the career of my dreams straight out of college, I will forever stand on this base that our Keizer teachers and coaches helped to mold for me. For this, I and all Keizer students are forever in their debt.

A special thank you to many of the teachers and coaches who had an impact on my life from the beginning all the way back in 2001 to now from Clear Lake, Whiteaker, and McNary:

Mrs. Zahradnik, Mrs. Stai, Mrs. McFadden, Mrs. Percy, Mrs. DeVos, Mrs. Tipelin, Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Biamont, Mr. Hein, Mr. Staley, Mrs. Erickson, Mr. Earl, Mrs. McNulty, Mr. Hunter, Mrs. Sweeney, Mrs. Mahi, Mrs. Coe, Coach Hafer, Mr. Coburn, Mrs. Ambert, Mr. Mulligan, Mrs. Keeker, Mr. Crockett, Mrs. Woods, Mrs. Bowers, Mrs. Sheridan, Mrs. Bushey, Mrs. Tavares, Mrs. Roberson, Mr. Ward, Mrs. Cramer, Sra. Jensen, Mrs. Bell, Mr. Parker, Mrs. Graham, Mr. Melting, Mr. Myers, Mrs. Bell, Mrs. Stefani, Mrs. Bello, Maj Garcia, MSgt Ellis, Mama Ellis, Mama Hawaii, Mr. Borresen, Mr. Tiller, Mr. Hanson, Mr. Litchfield, Mr. Looney, Mr. Heimerdinger, Mr. Nicholas, Mrs. Olson, Mr. Freeman, Coach Gauntz, Coach Fordney, Coach Anagnos, Coach Auvinen, Coach Walker et al.

An incredible list of mentors and educators if I ever saw one.

(Tristan Briggs graduated from McNary High School in 2014 and will graduate from the United States Air Force Academy this year.)