(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) — What teacher Katie Ricca did for a struggling student is touching hearts far from her hometown of Panama City, Florida.
The first-grade teacher at North Bay Haven Charter Academy has been holding live story times online every night for her “very social” class. But one night she noticed one of her students — whom she called “normally a very cheerful young lady” — was withdrawn.
“Our class tried talking to her but you could tell something was bothering her,” Ricca told “Good Morning America.” “She left the meeting early so I texted her mom to check in. My sweet student told her mom she was sad but didn’t know why.”
Ricca asked the girl’s mom, Kelley Close, if she could stop by the next day. Ricca came over and surprised 7-year-old Hannah.
“Mrs. Ricca sat at the end of the driveway and had Hannah sit about six feet away,” Close said. “She read several books, they talked about our sidewalk drawings and also talked about all of our feelings during this ‘quarantine season.’ She reminded Hannah that it’s OK to get bummed out every now and then, it’s OK to chill out and it’s even OK to cry about it if we need to. She reminded Hannah that even though we’re separated, we’re all going through the same thing at the same time.”
The gesture was extra special because of Ricca’s own life: she has five children of her own.
“She’s now homeschooling all of them as well as managing online classes for 18 students and reading classes for another 18 students,” Close said. “She and her husband also run a cake business out of their home. They’re busy, really busy. Even with all of that, she sat on the hard concrete of my driveway talking to my daughter for an hour just to make sure her student was OK.”
Ricca said her school values relationships above academics.
“Seeing my student upset I knew I had to show her I care. She didn’t need more math practice; she needed me to show her I understood her feelings and that she wasn’t alone,” she said.
And while these times are trying, Close said there have been bight spots.
“With all the craziness in our world right now, these are the things I want to remember about this time,” she said. “When my daughter has children of her own, this is what I want her to remember about it. Even though we were all busy and stressed and worried, we made time for the things that mattered.”
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