Before the 2023 Eighth Grade Continuation Ceremony at Colorado Academy—and long after—there was picture-taking all around the Leach Center for the Performing Arts: extended family groups, selfies with friends, shots with congratulatory balloons and flowers. In between, there were brief remarks and touching tributes to each of the Grade 8 students in the Class of 2027, signaling the close of their Middle School careers and heralding their new status as high schoolers.
The pictures captured a beloved special occasion at CA, as students and their families looked back on the significant growth and achievements of Middle School and imagined how far they’d travel in another year’s time.
There was something else that made this year’s ceremony special: it was the last for Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman, retiring this year after a decade and a half at the helm of his division.
Head of School Dr. Mike Davis congratulated Eighth Graders on reaching this milestone in their education, describing them as “scholars, artists, humanitarians, and athletes well equipped for the challenges and opportunities to come.”
Davis referred to the late NFL Hall of Fame player and lacrosse All-American Jim Brown, a legendary athlete and activist, in underscoring the character, community, and commitment to self that are so important at CA.
“Brown believed that caring for others is essential for building community,” Davis said, “but he knew that how you think about yourself is even more important. He once said, ‘I learned a long time ago that advice is a quick trip to nowhere. What matters is the commitment that only you can make in yourself, the responsibility to assume control of yourself.’ Be kind to yourself and others. As you move into high school, challenge yourself to be genuine, to be open, and to care.”
Davis went on, “Life is a constant state of change. How you approach that change will determine whether your future is one of stress or serenity. Focus on being flexible as you live in the present. High school is an amazing time if you’re willing to embrace change and take risks. Be willing to think differently about your future—listen intently, take smart risks, be confident, find new friendships, sustain old ones, try new food, understand cultural differences, dance differently, give yourself grace, be kind, and embrace a lifelong love of learning.”
Before moving on with the ceremony, Davis took a moment to salute Wolf-Tinsman. “Bill models so many aspects of our mission. As educators, we see students at their highest moments and sometimes their lowest. Bill always puts students first. I have seen him demonstrate graciousness and love when a family’s in crisis. I’ve seen him rally behind our faculty. Bill is a person who always does the right thing, no matter what.”
Extended applause brought Wolf-Tinsman up to the microphone, where he gave thanks to the Middle School faculty assembled in the front rows of the Leach Center. “This is the team that comes to school every day with a full heart and makes the weather sunny for our students.”
Wolf-Tinsman also thanked parents, acknowledging, “Your support of our program and of our teachers allows us to do the right thing for the kids. That means we’re able to evolve our curriculum, try new things, make mistakes—all the things that we ask your kids to do, but we get to do them as adults with the hope that over time, we keep improving the experience that you have of CA.”
He then turned to the Eighth Graders on stage to offer a few words of advice drawn from quotations and sayings displayed around the Middle School.
“The first,” he said, “is the power of ‘yet.’ You are all fantastic learners, but I want to remind you that it’s okay not to be great at something at first. Persevere, because when you care about something and you practice something as hard as I know all of you can, ‘yet’ will come, and you will be really, really good.”
The second, related message Wolf-Tinsman shared: “‘No winter lasts forever. No spring fails to arrive.’ Spoiler alert: your life is not going to be a mad rush from one success to the next. There are going to be hard times. Always remember, that’s the weather. Things are going to get better.”
He had one final piece of advice to give. “‘Be the person your dog thinks you are.’ In other words, be kind, be empathetic, be compassionate—all those things you know you can be. Because I know this group: you are going to accomplish great things, and even more than that, what’s going to matter most is your family, your friends, and your compassion for others.”
Wolf-Tinsman then handed the proceedings over to the students. Eighth Grade Class Representative Mira Leon thanked the Middle School Principal as well as fellow students, faculty, staff, and parents for their support through a Middle School career that included two years of COVID-19 impact. “It’s ultimately the people who make up the environment and create the memories,” she said, “and that’s what makes CA such a special place.”
Eighth Grader Karsten Braun followed Leon at the podium to offer a final tribute to Wolf-Tinsman.
“You have governed the turbulent waters of the Middle School with calm leadership and a youthful exuberance—as shown in your ties. You exhibited compassion and forgiveness when our hooks were snagged or we lost a catch on the line. And when we reeled in a huge catch, you were our biggest cheerleader. While we are sad to see you go, we hope you enjoy the next phase of your life, and keep connecting and relating with people.”
The Middle School Choir, conducted by Vocal Music Director Dr. Kevin Padworski, took the stage to sing “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman, and then it was time for the final student tributes of Wolf-Tinsman’s career. He invited Middle School teachers to the stage to share their thoughts about the students they know so well.
“By all means, clap for each and every one of these students,” Wolf-Tinsman said. And the clapping continued as teachers revealed the care and admiration they felt for each one of the Eighth Graders.
Outside after the ceremony, proud parents congratulated their students, and these soon-to-be high schoolers lingered with their classmates to reflect on how much they’d grown in just a few short years.