I have such admiration for the twenty-one students in my class.
~These students who quietly and apprehensively entered the room, followed my directions, and politely helped themselves to the pumpkin muffins I had made.
~These students who dressed up for this very special day and the students who talked non-stop about Rick D. Niece during homeroom that morning.
~The young man who entered the room and confidently went up to our guest, stuck out his hand for a firm handshake and said, “Hi Mr. Niece. My name is C. It’s nice to meet you.” I wish his mother could have seen how grown up he was at that moment.
~The boy who knew the answers to Rick’s questions, but was just too shy to answer. But finally, with some gentle coaxing, got the courage to raise his hand, clear his throat, and answer in a complete sentence. I am so glad he could leave class that day with no regrets.
~The star-struck girls who raised their hands for every question, who knew every little detail, and remembered things I didn’t even remember.
~The 13 and 14-year old boys with nervous, cracking voices, who showed the maturity and compassion I always knew was deep down inside. They were not afraid to ask questions and share their feelings.
~Those boys who were too shy to speak, but were respectful listeners, and still had a one-on-one conversation with Rick during the book signing.
~The very bravest ones who confidently stood and read one of Rick’s poems out loud to him.
~These students, many who struggle with reading, who stood and read a poem called “Small Towns” in unison and brought tears to my eyes.
I have such admiration for this man, Mr. Rick D. Niece, who let my students call him “Rick” or “Rickie, my boy!”
~ The man who met my students at their level, but never talked down to them.
~ The man who answered every question – even “What’s your favorite color?”
~ The man whose favorite color on this particular day was green.
~ The man who quickly learned their names and praised them for their questions and thoughts.
~The man who spoke personally with each student as he autographed each book and took pictures.
~The man who asked my spunky girl, “What do you want to do with your life?” (Does he know how important that made her feel?)
~The man who spent a few extra minutes with the little girl who had lost her book, but finally found it in time for an autograph.
~The man who fought back tears when my students read his poem “Small Towns” in unison.
~The man who told my class, “You guys couldn’t give me a better gift.”