It’s Teacher Appreciation Week at my daughters’ school this week, and in honor of that I wanted to talk about someone special who has touched my heart with her kindness, caring, always present upbeat attitude, and a bright smile for everyone.
Her name is Kerrin Riley and she is the Library/Learning Center Director. I first met Ms. Riley a few years ago when I attended a curriculum night for my oldest daughter. The meeting was held in the school learning center which is also the library. When the meeting was over I was scanning the shelves pretending to be an interested parent. Quite honestly, it was close to Banned Books week and I wanted to make sure I saw certain Judy Blume books on the shelf.
Ms. Riley approached my husband and me and asked if she could help us find anything.
“Yes,” I boldly said, “I want to make sure you have certain Judy Blume books here and I’m thrilled to see that you do.”
Ms. Riley was appalled. “Of course I have them.”
I smiled. I was kind of giddy. “Well, I just wanted to check, you know, and make sure that they weren’t banned or anything. Cause if they were I’d have to raise holy heck.” (Not exactly what I said, but I’m keeping it clean!)
Ms. Riley smiled back and we launched into a Judy Blume lovefest which had my husband rolling his eyes skyward, or I guess it would be ceilingward since we were inside. We were instantly friends. I mean how could you not bond with a fellow Judy Blume fan!
About a year later I received a contract for my book Ordinary Me. I was attending another curriculum night, which my daughter assured me that Ms. Riley would be attending. I’d been waiting to share the news with her in person and when I told her, she started to cry a little bit. She was more excited than I was! From that day forward she was my biggest fan and I was hers.
Ms. Riley immediately went into help mode. She wanted me to come and talk to the students, have a signing, anything I wanted she would try to do. I told her I was too nervous to talk in front of people. “Then you should practice among friends,” she said. And I did. She arranged for a small group of students to come and see me in the library. It was wonderful and really prepared me for another school visit I was going to do. I know I wouldn’t have been able to survive it without her support.
I had the opportunity to view Ms. Riley “in action” so to speak when I dropped in unexpectedly to see her. She was reading a story to a first grade class with such enthusiasm that I found myself enjoying the story right along with them. She would ask questions and encourage the students to ask questions. She wanted them to learn and love reading. But her passion for teaching did not end with the learning center. Her lively spirit overflowed into the school’s extra curricula activities as the cheerleading coach.
Recently I learned that Ms. Riley will not be returning to the school next year and I was deeply saddened by the news. My girls, who went to the learning center to visit with Ms. Riley, or just to talk when they needed a friend, will surely miss her. As will I. She is a friend, a fan, and a wonderful teacher. She is someone we could all learn from.
So, three cheers to you Ms. Riley, I will always remember how you helped me, my girls and numerous other students with your unconditional kindness. I will miss you and I wish you nothing but the best in the future, but I wanted you to know you are definitely appreciated.