Zane Emerson’s senior sendoff



Courtesy of Zane Emerson

When I walked through the front doors of then-Madison High School as a freshman, I had no idea how, or if, I would fit in. Throughout elementary school I was a lone wolf, feeling disconnected from my peers; and although I gained a friend group in middle school, I still didn’t quite fit in (and none of my middle-school friends ended up going to McDaniel anyway). I would have loved to reassure my young self that he would find multiple communities within the school, and that each would bring him joy, completeness, and self-actualization.   

Although not one cohesive community, the nine AP classes I’ve taken (Human Geography, Psychology, US History, Biology, Environmental Science, Language and Composition, Literature and Composition, Statistics, and Government) have thrust me in a community of engaged thinkers and intellectual powerhouses. Though each class is in many ways radically different, the communities felt much the same. We were all in this together, taking a difficult class with the hope of expanding our minds and challenging ourselves, with some possible college credit at the end. Being surrounded by other people who relished intellectual challenge, who loved learning like I did was an amazing experience. 

Although I’ve had many amazing AP teachers, three stand out to me. Mr. James of AP Psychology almost needs no introduction; his kindness, eagerness to teach, and constant enthusiasm made every class wonderful to be in, and gave me a true appreciation of the human mind, and of what an excellent teacher was capable of. Mr. Bennon of AP US History taught each of his classes with passion, showing how much he believed that otherwise dull history could teach us important lessons about the world and ourselves, and he fanned the flame of my love of history. Mr. Grosscup of AP Literature is the most recent addition to this pantheon, but his unique style of teaching, combining high expectations with down-to-earth clarity and the dispensation of pearls of wisdom, gave me a newfound appreciation for literature, and new perspectives on the wider world.

Of course I cannot mention communities I’ve come into without mentioning the lovely journalism community. I came onto the journalism seat relatively late, first taking Intro to Journalism in the first semester of my junior year. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I was able to jump right into the newspaper class for my second semester, and I couldn’t be gladder. The journalism community has been one of the most fun and welcoming places I’ve been in. Everyone in the program, especially the editors, are warm, kind, funny, and friendly. I truly feel like one of them, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Obviously my experience in journalism would not have been the same without Miss Sarabeth. I’ve known her since my freshman year, and she’s made my high school experience an enjoyable one. Her warmth is apparent in her teaching and personhood, but the greatest lessons she imparts are in the one-on-one conversations with her. She’s the kind of teacher you want to impress not because you’re worried about disappointing her, but because she inspires you to do your best. Miss Sarabeth has, in no small part, shaped me into the person I’ve become.  

Of all the communities I consider myself a part of, possibly the one I love the most is the debate community. I joined debate as soon as there was a team to join, in my sophomore year, and was delighted to be surrounded by people like me. People who loved to argue, who prized logic and reasoning, who enjoyed the game of debate as much as the practice of it. Due to the nature of debate tournaments, which are often day-long affairs with hours between rounds, a debate team is forced together in a way that creates deep bonds and strong friendships. We researched together, we laughed together, we debated together, we won together, we lost together. I felt like I truly belonged here, like I had found the types of people I wanted to be with. 

To mention debate without mentioning Mr. Heath would be close to sacrilege, but trying to condense all he means to me in one paragraph is impossible. He has shaped me both intellectually and emotionally, both in ways I knew then and in ways I only understand when looking back. I have learned so much from him that it’s hard to know where to begin. I learned to argue and speak well, of course, but I gained new insights into the nature of the world, the nature of humanity, and new perspectives on many issues of life, both global and personal. Some of my fondest high school memories have been conversations I’ve had with Heath. Without him, I wouldn’t be nearly the person I am today. 

Everyone desires a sense of belonging in the communities they enter, and I feel extraordinarily lucky that I have found that sense of belonging from multiple sources. Being a part of the AP, journalism, and debate communities have given me everything I wanted and more; and the wonderful teachers at the heart of those communities have only magnified this. As I get ready to head out into the big wide world, I’m remembering not only the communities I’ve found, but the people who have shaped me.