A teacher in Florida went above and beyond to cheer up one of her students. Katherine “Katie” Ricca noticed that one of her normally “cheerful” students was not enjoying the remote learning experience after her school closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ricca decided to take her show on the road and read to the student from outside her home. The teacher is being praised for the act of kindness. She proves that teachers really are heroes.
North Bay Haven (NBH) Charter Academy in Panama City transitioned to remote learning at the end of March.
The school Ricca taught at closed and transitioned to remote learning in late March. Since the close, Ricca has been holding storytime via Zoom for her students to keep them engaged and also for her to check in.
“I was planning on doing this twice a week until they begged for me to meet each night,” Ricca told People. “My class was very social so it was great for them to be able to see their friends each day. They would talk about their day before I read.”
The virtual classes and storytimes were keeping her students’ morale up for the most part, but Ricca could tell something wasn’t right with one.
Ricca began to notice that one of her most “cheerful” students seemed to be having a tough time with the new situation.
“Hannah was especially quiet,” Ricca recalled the details of their Zoom call on April 2. “This was very unusual for her… She put her head down so we couldn’t see her face. I called her name and she didn’t respond. I could tell something was bothering her.”
Hannah ended up signing off the Zoom call early, which signaled to Ricca, a mother of five, that something was really the matter. Ricca sent Hannah’s mom a text message to see how her student was faring at home.
Ricca is a very involved teacher and it wasn’t unusual to receive text messages and other communications from her.
Hannah’s mom, Kelley Close said, “It was just Katie being Katie. She’s always checking on her students.”
While the text message from Ricca might have been SOP, what she did next really stood out.
“Hearing that Hannah was sad, I was heartbroken… I just wanted to see her and talk about what’s going on,” Ricca explained to People. “Having kids at home, I see how it’s affecting them, so I understood how she felt.”
Ricca then asked Close if she could swing by the following day and check in on Hannah, from a safe distance.
“She said, ‘Since I’m a teacher, I consider this essential,'” Close recalls. “That one sentence made me tear up. She’s got a husband and five kids at home, and she still considers my daughter’s well-being essential.”
On April 3, Ricca pulled up and surprised Hannah who was picnicking in the front yard of her home.
“She just looked at me with disbelief, like she couldn’t believe I was there,” Ricca recalled.
“At first, I asked how she was doing and she said, ‘Happy,’ but she later told me that she was feeling sad,” the teacher explained. “I told her that I’m sad too. We talked a little about how feelings are important and that it’s okay to feel sad. I told her some things that make me feel better and reminded her I’m always here if she needs me.”
In an effort to cheer Hannah up, Ricca decided to read some “silly books” that she had brought with her. That’s when Close snapped a picture of the teacher and student together. The photo has since gone viral.
Close is very thankful that her daughter has such a compassionate teacher.
For Close, the kind gesture meant so much to her. Ricca has been teaching at NBH for three years and for Close, the kindness is catching.
“It shows me that our teachers really do care about our kids,” she explained. “It reminds me that it takes a village to raise children and our teachers are a vital part of our village.”
“This whole season is hard and frustrating and scary, but as long as we take the time to look after one another, we’ll get through it,” Close continued. “If something’s wrong, say so. If you see someone struggling, reach out. Take care of each other.”
Close never did find out exactly what was upsetting her daughter, but Ricca had some thoughts.
“She never did tell me why she felt sad. All she said was, ‘I just really feel sad and I don’t know why,'” Close shared. “Looking back, I realize how big of a thing it was for a 7-year-old to admit.”
Ricca wants parents to know that we’re all in this together. The situation is unlike anything any of us have ever experienced.
“This has been a difficult transition for all of us, … Our new normal is exhausting,” Ricca said. “I told my parents the first day: if your child gets lunch, you’ve done a great job. I don’t want them to stress out over teaching [at home]. That’s what I am here for.”
“The most meaningful part of remote learning has been afternoons together. I love seeing my students and getting to hear about their days,” she continued. “We’re not just distance-learning, we’re distance-loving.”
What an amazing teacher! In these difficult times, it’s important for parents and teachers to do all that they can to make sure that kids receive love in many forms.
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