Susan Oczkowski retired from the MPA faculty last year after 44 years, most of them working closely with our Middle School students. She sent the following letter to the Class of 2024, whose final year of Middle School was cut short this spring.

Dear Eighth-Graders,

Greetings to you all. Many of you know me from last year, but if you are new to MPA this year, I am new to you. For years I was simply known as Coach O, and it was my honor and privilege to teach many of you for many years. For new students, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I wish only that the time was different.

I am writing to you today for a few reasons. First and foremost, I truly hope that you and your families are all well during this pandemic. Our world is hurting, and you will all be living in a much different world when we come out of this on the other side.

I’m also hurting with you and for you as you finish eighth grade in this most unusual way: no dinner dance, no trip to Great America, no Academy Day, no finals for the last time. I can’t imagine how much you miss your friends, your school, your teachers, and especially all the extra special things eighth-graders usually get to experience.

I can’t fix that for you, but I know you, and your love and expertise in the field of technology will help you to still get together and be in touch.

I was really looking forward to returning to MPA to be there for Middle School Closing Exercises. I went through a lot with many of you. I know your class has many great leaders, and I hope they are helping in keeping you united as one. A handful of you were my advisees in sixth grade. Remember when I told you I had never taken a selfie? I worked with many of you in service projects through Service A.C.T last year. I watched lots of growth in P.E. classes, and witnessed many of you performing on stage, on the court, or on an athletic field.

I wanted to witness your last day of middle school on a beautiful June afternoon, seeing you in beautiful clothes (how nice you all would look!) and singing “The Way We Were” like the classes before you. There may still be a way for us to celebrate together when it’s safe for all to do so.

This is not meant to be a eulogy, but rather a call to rise together and make it your own. This time is hard, historic and unforgettable. You are all a part of history in the making. So I implore you: Hug your families, love your friends, pray for the heroes in all of this, and look forward to the day when we will all get through this — together.
Look closely on that day. I might just be in the back row, smiling, crying, and remembering our good times together.

I love you all and miss you. Stay strong and stay well!

‘Til we meet again,

Coach O