5 Boone High valedictorians return to their 'Rock'

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2017, 6:19 PM EDT

Before five valedictorians from Orlando's Boone High School graduated, they wanted to go back to elementary school.

  • 5 Boone High 2017 valedictorians all had same elementary teacher
  • Shenandoah Elementary teacher Mary Rock is retiring after 33 years
  • 'You have no idea how special this is,' she told them on a visit

The gesture was their way of saying "thank you" to their favorite teacher, who taught all five students in the same classroom 10 years ago at Shenandoah Elementary on Conway Road.

“I’m not going to cry no matter what you say," teacher Mary Rock said Thursday to her former "Rock Stars," who all stopped by to inspire her current students and honor their beloved teacher.

After 33 years of teaching, Rock is retiring at the end of this school year.

“(She) let me know that as long as I saw something and set a goal and really applied myself to that goal, that the possibilities were endless, because my capabilities could lead me to achieve whatever my goal was," said Matthew Roman, one of the Boone valedictorians graduating Thursday.

“Once I knew that they could reach their goals, I definitely encouraged them strongly," Rock said.

It was surreal moment of awe for Roman, being back in the same classroom he credits for his educational awakening.

The other Boone valedictorians from Rock's class of 2017 graduates are Sophia Brown, Olivia Page, Megan Pirino and Nathan Wendling.

“(There are) very few teachers throughout my educational career that I think have affected me and enabled me as much as Ms. Rock has for the rest of my life," Roman said. "She was amazing."

The five, who were Rock's students in the second and third grades, said some of the things they enjoyed most about Rock’s class were the Accelerated Reading program, the prizes for meeting their reading goals and Fun Fridays.

"To hear you guys say those words means more to me than anybody else talking to me about anything, because if that’s the kind of memory I’ve left you with, that makes me feel like I’ve done my job," Rock said.

However, as Roman heads off to study science, politics and economics at Columbia University in New York, an Ivy League school, Rock’s motto will resonate with him and her other students for a lifetime.

“Miss Rock always said do your best, and you can do anything," he said.

"That kind of mentality really, really resonated throughout the rest of my educational career," Roman said. "I think it really helped me to get where I’m going now."

Rock felt overwhelmed by meeting her Rock Stars again.

"I love it. I really do. You have no idea how special this is. It’s better than any accolades I could ever get from anybody else on the planet," she said.