While Lodi High School graduated close to 500 seniors at its ceremony Saturday, alumni were also recognized in more ways than one during the festivities.
It was the 112th graduating class of a school with a long tradition of alumni returning to their alma mater to teach. One of those, Tammy Boschee, the "Apple Academy mom," was surprised to be named the 2009 Teacher of the Year.
Before the ceremony, the Grape Bowl stands filled up quickly and a handful of people had to sit on the bleachers behind the graduates.
It was the first Saturday graduation for a Lodi high school, a new tradition that will rotate among the district's four main high schools.
Student body president Millia Hinchman opened the event by thanking teachers and administrators for giving her peers the confidence to do what they want in the future, and senior class president Corinne Dickey remarked that it didn't seem like they were living in bad economic times.
The school year started with new, red, shiny lockers, a crisp public announcement system and three-ring binders provided to every student.
That was something that the alumni, recognized in the audience, were never forced to use. Later, alumni joined the Class of 2009 with proud "L's" held in the air as they sang the school's Alma Mater.
Earlier in the ceremony, 2008 Teacher of the Year Mishell Wolff announced Boschee's award. In choosing her, students said that Boschee is always there for them, whether they need to vent or cry.
"She takes a crazy amount of time to make sure her students do their best," Wolff said of the Apple Academy leader. Boschee teaches at the academy for students with plans to go into careers with a focus on children.
Three of the school's four retiring teachers were recognized by Principal Bill Atterberry, including Gary Knackstedt, who began his career at Lodi High in 1972 teaching business students how to type on typewriters. Students have since upgraded to iMacs.
Atterberry also recognized a record 26 students who earned a 4.0 or higher grade-point average, and the quarter of a million dollars in scholarships earned by students in the AVID program alone.
"I have absolutely no doubt you will accomplish whatever you set out to do," he said.
In her speech, valedictorian Shannon McElligot, who earned a 4.5 GPA, continued the ceremony's thankful tone.
"Many people have motivated us to grow into the people we are," she said.
One of those may have been Lexie Reynolds, a 2006 Lodi High graduate, at the Grape Bowl on Saturday to cheer on her little sister and graduate, Tessa.
"I'm so proud of her, and I love her," said Reynolds, a member of the self-proclaimed loudest family in the stands. "She worked really hard on her Senior Project."