Monday, May 4, 2009

I appreciate you Ms. Riley

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.



Morgan Mandel said...

The school systems need more great teachers like Ms. Riley. A Teacher like her has more of an influence on her students than she realizes.

Morgan Mandel

Margot Justes said...

What a wonderful blog-heartwarming to say the least and what a great example she set for her students and the parents.
Margot Justes

Pamala Knight said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with Ms. Riley, June. It's so important for not only kids, but for adults as well, to have someone who encourages and cheers us on.

I'm sure that you and your kids appreciate her influence and will miss her.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. Teachers like Ms. Riley are gems. There have been a few in my life, too, and I wouldn't be where I am without them.

You didn't say why she is leaving. I hope she's retiring or moving and not being let go because of budget cuts.

Debra St. John said...

Never take for granted a teacher who instills a love of books in her students...especially one who leads by example. Cheers to all those teachers out there!

mystwood said...

Teachers like Ms. Riley have such an impact on our kids. I wish her nothing but the best and hope that leaving was her choice, and not the district's.

Marilyn Brant said...

What a wonderful person your Ms. Riley is! Thanks for sharing this touching story, June...the world of education needs more people like her in it :).

Emma Lai said...

Beautiful blog!

Kathye Quick said...

Ah--- It's so nice to have a teacher touch your heart.

I can already feel how much you're going to miss her.

Unknown said...

Cheers to Ms. Riley and all teachers who go the extra mile for our children. You make such a huge difference in the lives of children AND their parents. Thank you! And thank you, June, for sharing. Good luck to you in your future endeavors, Ms. Riley.

Deb Larson said...

I love teachers who get right into the thick of things with their enthusiasm.
Someone has big shoes to fill taking over for Ms. Riley!!!!
DL Larson

Laurie Larsen said...

June, you brought tears to my eyes and made me wish that I knew Ms. Riley too!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi June,
Good teachers are worth their weight in gold. Your Ms Riley sounds like a real gem

Marianne Evans said...

Teachers bring such impact to our lives - they deserve so much more than they receive in return - but observations like yours, I'm sure, make it all worth while for them. Well done, June!

Myrna Mackenzie said...

June, what a wonderful story! Does Ms. Riley know that she's the subject of your blog entry today? I hope so. As a former teacher, I can tell you that she'd probably love to read it. Educators spend their days hoping they're making a difference but not always sure that they are. My fondest memories are when a former student (or parent) stopped in to visit me. And Ms. Riley sounds like a gem. What a nice post to wake up to!

Gretchen Schneider said...

Hi June! Great story. Is Ms. Riley a librarian, a teacher, or both?


Ann Whitaker said...

As a former teacher, I'd like to say Ms. Riley is very lucky to have someone not only recognize her worth, but also to write about it! I hope she reads your blog. So many times teachers never know the impact they have made on their students' lives.

June said...

Thank you all for such wonderful comments.

In answer to the questions:
Yes, Ms. Riley has seen the blog, (I surprised her with it yesterday!)

Ms. Riley is both teacher and librarian.

No, it was not her decision to leave the school.

Thank you all!


Unknown said...

Great Story!!! I think I heard it before!!! >.< LOL~

Rebecca J. Clark said...

What a lovely tribute to an equally lovely teacher. A great teacher can make the world of difference to a student. It was my HS English teacher who told me I should write a book, and who didn't criticize my book choices (Harlequin Romances). Unfortunately, it works the other way, too--I blame my HS algebra teacher for making me hate math.

Great post. I hope Ms. Riley reads this.