Graduates toss mortarboards

Perryville High School bid farewell to 180 members of the Class of 2022 during its May 20 commencement ceremony.


Thirty students graduated with cum laude honors. Summa cum laude graduates are Megan Buchheit, Kira Hagan, Madison Mueller, Maddison Robinson, Dayton Strattman, Jackie Truong, and Mary Weinhold. Magna cum laude graduates are Ty Baudendistel, Noah Bergman, Madison Britt, Kaylee Davis, Phebe Dunker, Kellyn Friedman, Caitlin Hoff, Brandon Martin, Megan Matasci, Keturah Pyland, Caleb Staggs, Vicky Trejo, Averie Tucker, and Connor Warren. Cum laude graduates are Taegan Gerler, Logan Holley, Delainy Napier, Zoe Pippin, Katelyn Roberts, Carley Schirmer, Kiera Stanley, Nicholas Tomlinson, and Aubrey Wortmann.


The 2022 commencement address was delivered by Mr. Jeff Steffens (above), principal of Perryville High School, who is retiring after 31 years with Perry County School District 32. He congratulated the Class of 2022 on achieving their goal of earning their diplomas, which he likened to a “golden ticket.”

“Those congratulations are in some ways extra special today, due to the fact that you’ve all been through some unbelievably challenging times over the past two years,” he said.  “When the calm seas of life took a turn for the worse and the Covid-19 storm struck, you guys didn’t panic. You didn’t lose hope. You didn’t allow your ship to sink. Instead, in the face of unimaginable odds – and in true Perryville Pirate fashion – you showed huge amounts of resilience, grit, grace, and determination. You believed in yourselves, took control of the situation and steered the course through incredibly uncertain waters until you came out the other side not only intact, but stronger and wiser, and with a shiny new high school diploma!”

Mr. Steffens told his students that education is the greatest gift we can receive.

“Education is what gives us the means to earn a decent wage and support ourselves and the ones we love,” he said. “Education is what enables us to understand ourselves, the world around us and those with whom we share it with. Education is what gives us the knowledge we need to MAKE something of ourselves while also making the world a better place. And, most importantly, it’s what gives us a chance to dream, like Charlie in ‘Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.’

“My wife and I had the privilege of watching the drama club present ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.’  What a fantastic story it is and also an important one. Because you could say that a high school diploma is just like Willy Wonka’s famous ‘golden ticket’. It’s the chance of a lifetime. It’s what can open the doors to an incredible future. So you have to use it wisely.”

He ended by offering the Class of 2022 advice for the future: to be bold, optimistic, adaptable, and resilient.

“And finally – and most importantly – be kind. Because we’re all in this together.”

Steffens ended his final chapter at PHS by reminding the graduates that their own story is just beginning.

“Congratulations, class of 2022. It’s been an honor to work at Perry County District 32 school for the last 31 years and work with such amazing teachers, staff, students, and parents,” he said. “I’ll miss it dearly. So, as I finish writing the final pages of my story today, I wish each and every one of you the very best as you cash in your golden tickets and begin writing the rest of yours.”

Buchheit, Gerler address Class of 2022


Megan Buchheit, daughter of Glennon and Laura Buchheit, and Taegan Gerler, daughter of Jaimy and Chris Brown and Scott Gerler, were selected to address the Class of 2022.


Megan spoke to her classmates about how the pandemic had altered their high school experience. “Our class is unique in that we have only had one typical year of high school, our freshman year. We missed out on a lot of very crucial moments in our high school careers, like homecoming junior year, assemblies, the ending of Hamlet, and (for me at least), the whole second semester of geometry,” she said. “Throughout all of this, I feel like we have definitely learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and the world. It was an immense and formative experience that I am certain will benefit us as future leaders and thinkers.


“When we came back to school, full time (5 days a week), it made us hungry for trying new things,” Megan said. “I finally decided to join the Silver Dagger Players in the musical, Beauty and the Beast. This experience was nothing like I had ever done before. I made a lot of new friends and formed new bonds with people I hadn’t before; this all came from trying something new. There is such a beauty in being in a large class filled with people who have all different types of talents. This is one of the biggest reasons I love Perryville High School. The plethora of hobbies, personalities, and characters come together to show how each path of life is all wonderful if we are able to look for the good. The distinct memories that we have of each other, will continue to remind us how diversity is an amazing thing.”


She ended by encouraging her classmates to become who they wish to be.


“Something I am most looking forward to in college is the chance to grow into the person I want to be,” she said. “This past summer, I was given the opportunity to attend Missouri Girls State. One of the pieces of advice I was given there, and that I have been thinking about since I left, was that I could be whoever I wanted. I didn’t know anyone there, and they didn’t know me. I firmly believe that this advice can be applied to all of us in our futures. I think all of us are extremely deserving of the opportunity to build the life we want in our upcoming futures. I wish for equity, inclusion, and diversity to be at the forefront of our lifetime. At this point in our lives, we can have a clean slate and start new. It’s time to take control of your goals and become who you have always aspired to be.” 


Taegan told the Class of 2002 that she’d once wished graduation would come quickly.


 “However, in the last few months, as we quickly approached today, my feelings of excitement and eagerness to walk out of the doors of Perryville High School came to a halt,” she said. “Because what I failed to realize was the moment we leave here today, is the moment we also leave behind classmates that we have known and grown up with for 13 years of our lives.


“I don’t have many regrets that I’ll leave behind as I walk across the stage in a few minutes, except for one. I regret wishing that this day would come faster. Because this time, it really is the end. We will no longer leave for summer break saying ‘see you next year,’ but instead we will say ‘good luck in your future.’ My advice to you, class of 2022 and everyone else here today, is this. Don’t forget to live in the moment. Stop wishing things away, even during the tough times. Because one day you will look back and wish you didn’t. In the midst of writing this speech I came across a poem by an unknown author that said, ‘The value of time lies in the fact that there is only so much of it and once it’s used up, it’s gone.’ Class of 2022, we have used up our time at Perryville High School. So I say with a heavy yet full heart, we did it!”