When Grade 12 student Caitlin Slater was told the news that it was she who would be this year's valedictorian for Summit Trails Online High School (Rocky View School Division), she said it was a big surprise.

"My teacher called me, and it was just wow... It was a big moment," she said. "I never really expected it."

She will be delivering her speech on Tuesday, June 4 at the Bert Church LIVE Theatre and Slater said she has already finished her speech. Slater said that a big portion of her speech is dedicated to success and how it's defined by the students' learning journeys. 

"I talk about how success is individualized to all of our students and [for] everyone success looks different, and how we perceive our successes. That's what really matters."

When asked about her learning journey, she said that the choice of online schooling was one that has allowed her to grow not only academically, but also allowed her the space to find out who she is. Her experience is also unique, as principal of Summit Trails, David Smith explained that she is the first graduate to start with the school in Grade 10 and has completed her high school education completely online. 

"Online school takes a lot of discipline and really helpful in helping you grow as a person; and to figure out who you are as a learner," she said. "To be able to do that is really cool."

Slater's favourite subject in school was English and she came to love the works of William Shakespeare, particularly Hamlet. An avid reader in her free time who also enjoys Stephen King novels, Slater will be going to the University of Calgary this fall to study education. She plans to one day become a teacher. When asked what she thinks makes a good educator, Slater reflected that she has observed role models in her own high school life.

"[Good teachers], they're really understanding and they're really helpful. They're always available. Ms. Morton, she's my English teacher, and also my social teacher and she's been one of my biggest supports throughout my years at Summit Trails," Slater said. "She's always there."

But it's not just about reading for Slater, she also volunteers at the Bethany Cochrane as a porter, helping seniors to and from church as well as helping with food preparation.

Rocky View Schools estimates that approximately 2,000 Grade 12 students graduate this school year.

When asked why Slater has chosen the career path of a teacher, she said that the idea of helping others in their education.

"It was online school that made me realize how much I would enjoy being a teacher and I do like, talking through and explaining subjects to people and I feel like being a teacher would be really cool."

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