To become the valedictorian of a high school graduating class not only requires enormous dedication on the part of the student, but a lot of positive influences and role models who can provide guidance.

Emily Landwehr, valedictorian of the 2020 McFarland High School senior graduating class, said she has a lot of people to thank for helping her attain the knowledge and encouragement necessary when heading off to college where a new phase of her life will begin.

“I was and continue to be inspired by Ms. (Kaitlin) Cherney, my calculus teacher for the past two years, Mr. (Joel) Jenkins, one of my English teachers, and Ms. (Terri) Plautz, one of my science teachers. They all taught me to appreciate the process of learning and that school is more than memorizing facts,” Landwehr said. “Ms. Plautz is actually part of the reason that I chose to enter undergrad as a biochemistry major.”

Landwehr also appreciated the unconditional support of her parents who helped her deal with countless challenges in high school. A member of the McFarland High School girls swimming team that finished second in the 2020 WIAA Division 2 state tournament, she also counted on the friendship of senior teammate Ella Weaver and Alex Moderski, a 2019 McFarland graduate now on the University of Missouri women’s swimming team.

“The three of us have been friends since fourth grade, and they’ve always inspired me to be the best person I can be,” Landwehr said. “Alex Moderski helped me through the recruiting process. Being a college athlete herself, she was able to help me navigate the tough challenge of finding the right school academically and athletically.”

Landwehr will attend Butler University in Indianapolis where she will join the women’s swimming team. Aside from studying biochemistry, she plans to minor in French or sports coaching.

Salutatorian Sadie McCaulley also credits the positive inspiration of Plautz with helping her achieve high grades and make important choices about her college plans.

“She is a dedicated, genuine, caring, and incredibly intelligent educator with valuable life experience and the best advice,” McCaulley said. “Her support and encouragement has meant so much to me. She has also inspired me to explore the field of mathematics (as she did with science) before becoming a teacher.”

McCaulley is grateful for the education she received at McFarland. She made it a goal to become an academically accomplished high school student many years before enrolling at McFarland.

“Being first in my class was a goal I set for myself in middle school, and I met this goal for the first six semesters of high school,” she said. “The final semester set me back, but I have learned, grown and let go of many expectations of myself. Although I didn’t achieve what I set out to, many shorter-term goals were met on the way, and that is very fulfilling.”

McCaulley will major in secondary mathematics education and actuarial science at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She will also participate on the women’s cross-country team, and the track and field squad.

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