WATERVILLE — Retiring Waterville Senior High School teacher Rosemarie Smith drew upon a slogan from the 1960s while giving advice Thursday night to graduating seniors: Practice peace, love and rock and roll.

Smith, who has taught chemistry, physics, biology and physical science over 29 years and led many Science Olympiad teams to state championships with her coaching, told seniors that her peers have often called her a child of the ’60s.

Peace, she said, starts from within.

“You will find peace if your actions towards others matches how you feel inside,” she said.

Smith asked seniors to be kind to family, friends, and those who are different than they are in looks or beliefs. She urged them to thank those who helped them get this far and volunteer their time and resources to a cause that needs what they have to offer.

“Be kind to your body. Eat well, exercise, use sunscreen and indulge in moderation. These actions will lead to a peaceful life that may spread to peace in the world around you.”

Speaking to a crowded Wadsworth Gymnasium at Colby College, Smith told the 131 graduating seniors during Waterville High’s 138th commencement exercises that she hoped they would surround themselves with people they love and those who love them back unconditionally. She hopes, she said, they also find a job and partner that they love.

“I hope that you treat your environment with love. I am sorry that my generation is handing you so many problems, from depleted resources to plastic in the ocean to disappearing ice in the Arctic.”

Smith said she loves music, but thinks her generation was saying something more significant with the phrase about rock and roll.

“I think my generation was saying ‘Create something that is beautiful, simply because it makes you happy,'” she said. “Have something in your life besides your work. Find something that allows you to celebrate what is inside of you and how you feel about the world.”

Smith’s comments drew loud applause and a standing ovation.

Senior Class President Anastasia Drew had introduced Smith, a graduate of Westbrook High School, Bates College and University of Vermont. She presented a gift to Smith, saying it was for everything she had done for students and for the kind words she spoke to them Thursday night.

“We know that she has contributed immensely to our success these past four years,” Drew said.

The seniors marched into the gymnasium dressed in purple gowns and were greeted by high school Principal Brian Laramee. Laramee was assistant principal but became acting principal after Principal Don Reiter was fired last year. Laramee recently was named principal.

In his address, Laramee spoke of the many hats seniors had to wear throughout their high school years and how those hats changed as they matured. Like the students, Laramee also brought different hats with him to school every day, he said.

“As I am sure many in the class are aware, I am an administrator, but I also wear the hat of a proud father of a member of the Class of 2016,” he said to applause.

Laramee, whose daughter, Machaela Corinne, graduated Thursday, began to choke up as he talked briefly about how he tried to separate the roles as best he could over four years, but his family and professional hats collided many times.

“But the memories of wearing those hats and the challenges this balancing act created will stay with me forever,” he said.

Seniors wore many hats, including those of talented musicians, singers, athletes, artists, workers, state champions, siblings, children, parents, role models, trend setters and friends.

“As you march across the stage tonight and reflect upon your high school years, please do not store memories of the hats you have worn during high school in a locker or a backpack,” Laramee urged. “Instead, be proud of the skills you demonstrated in juggling the varied caps you have worn.”

Before entering the gymnasium, the seniors mingled in the Alfond Rink, remembering their school careers.

Gavin LaChance, 17, of Clinton, said he planned to enroll in Unity College to study conservation law, with an eye toward becoming a game warden.

“I knew I wanted to do something in law enforcement, but it was not until junior year that realized I wanted to be outside, as well as being a law enforcement officer, and conservation law is what really stood out for me,” LaChance said.

LaChance, whose uncle is a corrections officer for Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, cited teachers who also shone and were helpful to him and other students along the way: Jody Veilleux, a science teacher; Scott Rivard, who teachers math; and Sarah St. Pierre, who teaches special education.

“I had ups and downs, but overall, it’s a really good place to be,” LaChance said of Waterville High. “I definitely don’t think I would spend four years anywhere else. It was really fun.”

Sean Hallee, 19, said he is hoping to land a job at Hannaford or Shaw’s supermarket, and a jobs counselor is helping him with the application process. He cited teacher Heather Blanchet as an inspiring influence for him during his high school years.

“She was my English teacher for three years — sophomore, junior, senior,” Hallee said. “She was very fun.”

Sara Davie, 17, said she plans to take a year off and move to Massachusetts to be with her grandmother and then attend Bunker Hill Community College to garner four credits and be in Massachusetts long enough to be eligible for in-state tuition at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She said she probably will study something in the medical field and try to become a traveling nurse.

“Eventually, I want to be a doctor in a mental hospital,” she said.

She said math teacher Dennis Martin was her favorite teacher in high school.

“He always listened. He always listened to your side of the story, and when I needed help in any of my classwork, he helped me.”

She said she also appreciated Dawn England, a teacher’s aide in the media center.

“She’s great about finding books that people actually like,” Davie said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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