WARDSVILLE - Linda Heckman heads the Jefferson City High School math department, several miles north on Route B.
But Saturday night, Heckman - a 1980 Blair Oaks High School graduate - was the main speaker, chosen by a vote of the 110-member 2013 senior class, which includes her younger daughter.
At the beginning, she warned her audience: "I can't say that giving a graduation speech was on my bucket list."
And, she added, math teachers "are better problem-solvers than we are speakers."
Then she told high school seniors her address was going to be "your last Blair Oaks High School lesson," and proceeded to compare life to a softball - because the game has been an important part of her life.
She noted the softball's yellow color should remind graduates to "proceed with caution," especially during those times when they "will feel uncomfortable, unsure and even intimidated."
The softball's round shape should remind the graduates that Blair Oaks gave them a "well-rounded educational foundation (with) opportunities to grow athletically, academically, socially and personally."
The district has "very few dropouts, if any," Heckman said, and over the last decade has improved its scores on the annual ACT college entrance tests to "above the state average in the last four years. You need to take this solid foundation and build on it."
Softballs are hard, and should remind students to work hard, to "find the job that you enjoy and that makes you feel accomplished."
She noted an older man, in his mid- to late-70s, last year asked her when she planned to retire and, when she asked him the same question, "To my surprise, he replied, "Going to work every day is just as enjoyable to me as a day of vacation.'
"That man has, truly, found his fit and purpose in life - I challenge you to find that same fit."
Noting that a softball often gets "hit," Heckman reminded the 2013 graduates that some of their hits will be "some fly balls, some ground balls. Some will be for outs and others will be for base hits.
"There will be times you hit a home run and feel proud," she added, "and there will be times you strike out and feel defeated."
Throughout life, Heckman said, students should have "close family or friends to find you, pick you up and throw you back in play," whenever they feel "all alone."
Guidance Counselor Jill Shanley noted many of this year's seniors used her office as their "own, personal senior lounge," and she got to understand them as "an amazing class."
"This class' personality it funny, determined, very competitive, caring, responsible and - to be honest - just plain goofy most of the time," she said. "This class has, also, taught me to never give up. ...
"I have no doubt you'll be successful in the future."
Shanley caused a standing ovation from students and many adults when she noted that senior Emily Beul "never gave up (but) fought for her life and won."
Beul, 17, was critically injured just two months ago, when her car was broad-sided on the driver's side by a pickup truck, as she pulled from a driveway into the northbound lane of Christy Drive in Jefferson City.
Although she needed assistance, Beul walked across the stage Saturday night to receive her diploma.
Of the 110 graduates, Shanley said, 94 plan to continue their education, while seven are going into the full-time workforce and another seven are going into the military.
Brett Voss, headed for the U.S. Naval Academy, was Blair Oaks' salutatorian, and Michaella Forck, planning to get a nursing degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, was valedictorian.
Senior Class President Riley Butler agreed the Blair Oaks 2013 Class has "always been a very close-knit class. There was never a fine line that divided the jocks between the nerds, or the cheerleaders between the band members ... because we've got nerdy jocks and cheerleaders who were in the band.
"We've all got a connection with each other - and that is what is special about our class."