The photo above shows me with my husband, my Head of School, and the generous donor Mr. Dan Lufkin right after I gave my speech and accepted my Lufkin Award on May 12, 2023. Here's a link to a video of the event, which includes a very kind introduction from my boss. Below is what I wrote for the event, unchanged (including the [ ]s to remind myself to pause) except for one bracketed aside near the end.
Lufkin Speech (May 12, 2022):
Craig, asking for a friend…hypothetically, would it be bad if the Lufkin award winner took the bowl and ran? No? Okay.
The 2025s know that the first thing I’m going to do is to ask you to take your phone out and put it face down on the ground. I’ll do the same, right after I take a few photos for #hotchkiss365. Thanks.
Lisa Brown recommended that having my dog by my side would help me to stay calm while giving this speech, but since he’s over a hundred pounds of unpredictable, she lent me this inanimate version.
Many of the people who have accepted this same award have helped me understand good character. I am reminded of the thoughtful lessons each of them imparted in their speeches. Letty Roberts urged people to “look up and look around.” [ ] Keith Moon told heart-warming stories about talking with strangers, moments that taught him that “you never know” what greatness will come out of making the best of chance encounters with the people who cross our paths, [ ] and last year, Charlie Frankenbach implored us to “show up” for people and events.
I liked their talks so much I thought I should distill my ideas down to a single, life-changing catch phrase. My first thought, which won’t surprise any of you who habitually look down, was going to be “share the glitter,” [ ] but Marc Dittmer would never forgive me. [ ] I considered using my email sign-off, “all good things,” but I copied that line from Stephen Maier, class of 2008. Stealing someone else’s words hardly seems appropriate to the spirit of an award about character. [ ]
I don’t remember if the other Lufkin Prize winners gave us catch phrases, but I know that I hold them as examples to guide me to become the person I try to be. Christy Cooper’s presence feels like a warm, reassuring hug. She proves that we can keep showing strength even as we shed tears, a lesson I will need in these ten minutes. Ana Hermoso started a huge adventure in moving to a new country where most people spoke only her fourth language. Richard Kirby focuses his life not on what is scary and uncontrollable but on sharing acts of love and kindness. Both Fauses put their students first and Sarinda Wilson, my fated Five, brings good will and care to every interaction she has in French, in English, and in Lo and Behold. [ ] Shout out to Parker.
My life, teaching, and overall character have been shaped and reshaped by these Lufkin-award-winning people and so many others who have crossed my path. I’ve been lucky to attend a lot of great schools, starting with Laurance Armor Day School, Near North Montessori, and Francis Parker in Chicago followed by college and master’s programs that allowed me to study in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, and in my own home in Lakeville. [ ] A short aside of shameless self promotion: it was for the online Master’s program that I started my website, to which I’d love for you to subscribe. No, not now, please leave your phone on the floor. [ ] I took an accounting class at a community college in Michigan. I’ve attended conferences on creative writing and counseling and anti-racism and pro-gender-equity work from Maine to California. For most of my 53 years, I have been at home in classrooms, where I know that whatever else is going on, it’s my purpose, [ ] my pleasure, [ ] and my privilege [ ] to seek out fascinating and important lessons from teachers and classmates. I have been fortunate to get to embrace a quest for knowledge and understanding my whole life. [ ]
But for a rounded education, one can’t limit her discovery to the classroom. I think about what I’ve learned from my family. From my parents, and as a proud member of the Banana Splits Club, I have biological parents and bonus parents, both in-law and step, from whom I’ve been shown kindness, generosity, strength, and resilience. In my sister, I’ve witnessed an adventurous and tenacious spirit -- feel free to ask me or her [ ] about the time she won a house on a reality TV show. My maternal grandmother was a go-getter who practiced law before many women were allowed into the field. From my aunts, uncles, and cousins, I know how to make family count and to celebrate our own holidays -- anyone else gather for Summer Thanksgiving in July? [ ]
It may be corny to talk about the School’s motto, but I’ve never shied away from corn. I am grateful to have had many guides in my search for better paths. I’ve been lucky to learn from my office colleagues and teammates. Craig wields the wisdom of woodworking and wilderness. The Hotchkiss English Department members offer me new pedagogy and never mock my love of grammar -- shout out, Jim. Merrilee, Andrew, Christy, Dempsey, Maggie, and Amanda have helped me navigate deaning in ways I couldn’t have anticipated and at the moments I’ve been the most at-a-loss. Kinyette models finding opportunities wherever life presents obstacles. My adult class council have stuck with the job even though it entails way more time than advertised. Lisa B, Carissa, Amber, Sara, Marie, Heather, Laurie, Diana, and Nancy humble me when I think I’ve got this administrative thing down. These strong women often go without acknowledgement as they pay attention to the organization and details that keep this school running. Brenda, Michael, and Dave distribute magnanimity with the mail and positivity with the packages, and Brenda has shown me how much we can learn about bodies in motion from watching YouTube. [ ]
Bridget manifests the importance of bravery and asking hard questions. Michelle confirms the power of creating a beautiful space and delicious treats, and notes that I shouldn’t let a long drive get in the way of a good time. Carrie illustrates the importance of compassion. Ted attests that it’s okay to be not okay and to share our vulnerabilities in the aid of helping others. Jane knows that we have to meet people where they are and celebrate their efforts and progress. Kelsie and Peggie and Sam and Pierre and Carmen help whenever they can and remind me how many ways one person can show up for others. Renée demonstrates that the student can become the teacher. Caroline shows that initiative, hard work, and persistence can truly save lives. And Lisa F. never loses patience and can fix anything...literally, anything. [ ] In our daily interactions, all of these people have shaped and empowered me, guiding me in a quest to do better. [ ]
Helping me raise my game isn’t limited to people on campus. The accomplishments of Mr. Dan Lufkin, whose generosity created this award, help me imagine the difference one person with enough drive and energy can make. Tracy demonstrates how to maintain friendships across space and over time. She proves that we make our own families. Mary honors the pact that what gets said on the walk stays on the walk. Sammy P demonstrates that if you want to leave an impression, you should make people laugh while Mel proves that you don’t have to be the funny one to be seen and loved. The Stingers often repeat correctly that it’s not about the hockey. Vickie and Ron affirm that generous hospitality didn’t conclude with the ancient Greeks. And Michelle C feeds me romance novels, story ideas, and encouragement to power on word-by-word-by-word. [ ]
And those are just the adults. So many students, way too many to name here, have kept me on my toes. Avi, Jack, Julia, Monty, CNortey, Hillel kids, and others over the years have let me Jewish-mom them -- Yes, Jewish-Momming is an action verb that generally equates food to love. Stephen, John, and Luke missed the first three meetings of the course and made the class better every day after they recovered. My birthday buddy Axel embodies the fact that people can make time for their passion projects -- you can check out his great podcast, Y?. Another birthday buddy, Boffi, knows the power of a well written thank you card. And while I’m on student birthday buddies, Yuna offers kindness yearly on our shared day and all the days between. [ ]
Emma, Mallory, and Daniel verify that people who stick with writing and studying craft can see their names on book jackets, playbook covers, and magazine bylines. Aster suggests the need to stand up and speak out for what one believes. My divers make clear that the way to achieve success is to put yourself out there, flop painfully, smile or shout, and try again. My advisees present and past frequently imply that what can’t be cured with baked goods or a long walk is worth taking the time to figure out together. The Class of 2025 challenges me to grow, they forgive my missteps when I fall short, and they demonstrate bravery in sharing their stories. I’m hoping we’ll discover together that what we work to mend and improve can be stronger and more beautiful than it was before its fissures were revealed. And even younger than my students, Meredith, Miles, and Miller share the joy of having pen pals who actually write back. Kennadi knows that one joke can turn into a very long-lasting friendship…and friendship bracelet. Freddy, Eloise, Audrey, and Theo remind me of the teaching power of storytelling. Slightly older than those, my Noble Horizons readers make evident that there need be no end to one’s education. [ ]
Including mine. After taking these lessons from so many people, I have much left to learn. I listen to podcasts every day. On the Moxie podcast, I heard Salisbury Central School graduate Vemilo talk about how the only way to learn new things is to have a “willingness to unlearn.” I had to slow my stroll to think about that one for a while, but I get it now. If I think I know what’s right or what’s best, I can’t truly incorporate anything new. Julia Wu Trethaway advised people, in her catchphrase, to come to the world with an open mind and heart; what we discover will not only surprise and delight us but will also allow us to improve the world for ourselves and others. [ ]
You may have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned my immediate family. They’ve changed me too much to sum up in the amount of time I can ask you to sit still without checking your phones. Here’s what I will share about some important lessons I’ve learned from them. Tuukka forces me to practice patience when he stops to eat dirt, sticks, snow, rocks, grass, paper towels… [ ] He never holds a grudge, appreciates every scratch and treat, and will take any medicine, as long as it’s enveloped in something tasty. [ ]
My daughters have shown me that two people can be different from each other in every imaginable way and both be perfect. They have gone down roads that seemed right at the time but later revealed themselves as dead ends; they’ve learned to embrace the pivot. Both are smart, caring, generous women who know what matters in life and are willing to work towards better tomorrows. [ ]
And my husband knows more facts about more topics than anyone else I’ve met, but what I’ve gleaned most from him is that having the right support system matters. He has backed me fully through every hair-brained idea I’ve come up with and picked me up after every fall I’ve taken during our more than thirty years together. He has taught me that when I am at my most vulnerable, he will take care of me, and that when he needs help, I am capable of doing hard things. If you hear nothing else through my shaking voice today, hear this: find people who love you unconditionally and make you stronger than you can become on your own and work to keep them in your life. [ ]
I’m looking forward to learning so much more from the people I’ve named, from those I haven’t, and from those I haven’t even met yet. My quest for knowledge and understanding will guide me to the novels I read, the places I visit, the foods I eat, the podcasts I download, and even to the yarn I shape. I’ve come to believe that feeling good about how I’ve spent my life isn’t about where I land but about how I get there and with whom I travel. There aren’t any shortcuts, and it’s not only okay, but a good thing to stop and ask for directions. I don’t know what I don’t yet know. What I do know is that I am committed to continuing my search with many helpful mentors along the way. Overall, the key is to embrace the quest. [ ]
I thank you for strolling down my educational memory lane with me. I hope you will consider taking time to think about the people who have helped and guided you on your quests. If you want to come into my office to write a thank-you note, I have lots of cards and art supplies you can use. As you go through the rest of your day and your life, I hope you won’t forget to embrace the quest, but in case you need a reminder, check your mailbox. [Here's the aside: I gave everyone a sticker. If you're not on campus and want a sticker, please email me so that I can send you one.] Figure out what knowledge you can harvest from every situation and how to have fun in the process. Learn from people and places and books; learn from whatever and whoever make you smile and feel love but also from those that challenge and upset you. Learn at Hotchkiss and in college and in your careers and in your golden years. Remember the Lufkin catchphrases: show up, look up and look around, you never know, and embrace the quest.
10 thoughts on “229. Why Lufkin”
Congratulations, Carita! This is a well-deserved honor, and your students, family, colleagues, and friends are lucky to have you in their lives. Thanks for shouting out the Moxie podcast, but you forgot to mention that YOU were also a guest! Anyone who wants to listen will see why you are all good things wrapped up in one! https://mainstreetmoxie.press/carita-gardiner/
Oh, thanks for the plug. I loved being on Moxie and look forward to hearing your next Moxie-Lit guest!
Thank you for sharing your very sincere, powerful, and inspirational speech.
It was a real treat to read!
Thank you so much. I appreciate your support in this moment and for the last two years!
It was an honor to sit in your guest row and hear your beautiful and beautifully delivered speech for a well-deserved honor. Proud of you, happy for you, and love you very much! (And I hope that doesn’t break rule 177!)
I loved having you there to help me celebrate and love that you’re thinking about parallelism in your comment and love you. (Does that break 222?)
Best speech ever!! We cried! Honored to be there in person.
Thanks so much — I was thrilled to have you with me to celebrate!
Thank you for sharing your speech. Inspirational may be a tired term but it still applies to what you say. What I continue to admire about you, among many other good qualities, is your generosity of spirit, time and kindness. Congratulations on this special recognition.
Dear Jean, Thank you so much for these kind words. I feel truly lucky to have had so many great teachers including my Noble Readers — even if you’re not there any longer, you still count. THANK YOU!!