It’s a family tradition ‘Hat trick’ for Poth family — three valedictorians in a row
John Spencer Flieller and his sisters, Lauren and Emily, hold the distinction of being the only family thus far in Poth High School history to all earn the title of valedictorian of their respective graduating class.
By Cody Soto
John Spencer Flieller has always looked up to his sisters, Lauren and Emily.
At the age of 2, Spencer was determined to learn how to swim without a life jacket, because his sisters were already without one. Three weeks later, he was swimming with his sisters free of any flotation device, satisfied that he had pushed his limits.
Years later, Lauren earned the distinction of being named valedictorian of the Poth High School class of 2010; Emily followed, as valedictorian of the class of 2011. Spencer has joined his sisters’ success, after being named valedictorian of the Poth class of 2014 in May. They are the first family in school history to have all three siblings awarded this prestigious honor.
“I’ve always used my sisters to push myself,” Spencer said. “I would find something just to motivate me better than what I think I can be.”
He always felt the pressure to earn the valedictorian title like his sisters, whether it was from others or himself.
“I didn’t have to live up to them, but I pressured myself because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone even though I was always told just be yourself and do what you want to do, but I felt that pressure,” he said.
During high school, Spencer was involved in a plethora of activities, ranging from clubs and organizations to several sports, all while he competed for the top spot in his class.
“Initially, our entire family was concerned that he may be spreading himself a bit thin,” sister Emily said. “However, Spencer rose to the challenge of being such an involved student-athlete by excelling both in the classroom and on the various playing fields.”
His mother, Linda, said she had high expectations and stayed involved in her children’s education, both as a helping hand and a support system.
“I expected him to always do his best so there were no unanswered questions at the end of the day,” she said. “In our family, it’s always been ‘do the best you can and as long as you feel like you’ve done that, then that’s all we ask.’ I could live with whatever place he ended up with as long as he could tell me that was his best.”
Emily said their parents pushed them to succeed academically, but that wasn’t ultimately the end goal.
“Our parents tried to depressurize the whole situation by encouraging us to do our best and learn the skills that we would need in the future, rather than striving to simply end up on top,” she said.
Spencer’s competitive spirit kept him going throughout high school, whether on the field, on the court, or in the classroom.
“I think Spencer has always known that dedication and hard work go a long way in life,” said his older sister, Lauren. “He has always been a big competitor and always motivated, especially after he saw both of his sisters could do it.”
Spencer earned multiple scholarships, including one from Executive Women’s International; he said the people he met through the scholarship “helped (him) appreciate life so much more.”
Ultimately, Spencer believes that his valedictorian title alone will not make him successful; it’s his internal worth that will help him stand out.
“It’s not going to make me the CEO of a great company,” he said. “It’s my values and my beliefs that are going to help me get through the challenges and struggles in life and eventually get me to where I want to be in life.”
According to Spencer, success doesn’t always mean coming out on top.
“Success is what you take away from what you’ve been through,” he said. “Even if I wouldn’t have been valedictorian, I would have learned what it’s like to not hold anything back and I would know how to do the same thing later on in life when I felt like I just needed to give up. I’d know that I could be successful no matter if I was first place or not.”
Spencer will attend Texas A&M University in the fall, pursuing studies in animal science; he hopes to attend veterinary school and open his own practice.
“I’m really proud of the person Spencer is because he is honest with himself and others,” his mother said. “He’s a good young man with a big heart and I hope other people see him like that, too.”
On June 6, Spencer received his high school diploma at Jack Lane Stadium, the path his sisters walked before. With the turn of the tassel, as described by Spencer, “the trifecta was complete.”
“I’ve never known a family that’s had all of their children be valedictorians of their classes,” Spencer said. “I wanted that to be us.”
Cody Soto is a Poth High School graduate. He now attends Baylor University.