Robb Krecklow – My Sam

There have been many changes in classroom education since I left high school in 1969, but I am confident that one thing has remained constant. Good teachers influence students for a lifetime, not just for the year, or less, they have them in a classroom.

That’s how I felt after learning that Cecil M. Richmond had passed away in my Nebraska hometown. He was 90 years old.

You don’t know him, of course, but I hope you know someone like him. Mister Richmond, as nearly everyone in the school and the community called him, was that special teacher, who taught me the value of lifelong learning.

Our relationship began in the late spring of 1967 as I was registering for classes for my junior year. Mr. Richmond taught English composition and literature to juniors. He ran a disciplined classroom, using a half dozen different texts. Most students and many teachers felt he resided over one of the most challenging classrooms at Beatrice High School, chemistry and pre-calculus being the other two.

Owing to the faulty recommendation of a junior high school teacher, I had been removed from the college preparatory track as I entered my sophomore year. I told my guidance counselor I wanted back into the program, and I wanted to register for Mr. Richmond’s class.

My guidance counselor balked, and I went to see Mr. Richmond. And yes, I was scared to death. I still remember how Mr. Richmond sat me down in front of his desk and grilled me.

He did not ask me to name the eight parts of speech. He did not ask me to conjugate a single verb. He did not ask me who had won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1938. (Pearl Buck) He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. He asked me what plans I had for reaching my goals. He challenged me to ask him questions about the class.

In other words, we had a literate conversation. After about 20 minutes, he motioned for me to follow him. We walked quietly through the hallways to the counselor’s office, where he told my adviser to place me in his class.

You see, Mr. Richmond did not just teach English. He used the English curriculum to teach life skills, including, but not limited to, critical thinking, writing, and public speaking.

Along the way, he created a passion for excellence and a love for learning. Even in retirement 24 years ago, he taught me yet another lesson. Cecil Richmond retired to something, not from something.

He became one of the most respected and appreciated stage performers in community theater and he remained active at his church, where he was a longtime Sunday School teacher and choir director.

He also continued his active participation in Rotary International and the local retired teacher’s group. I feel guilty that I never told him directly how much he meant to me and to many of my fellow classmates. I suspect he knew full well.

I always visited with him at Rotary Club meetings, during my trips home. If ever there was a man for all seasons, Cecil Richmond was that man. I am better for having spent nine months in his classroom — or should I say 37 years in his shadow.

Educational administrators and school boards can cast as many programs as they like on a student body. However, nothing succeeds better than a teacher who can create in students a lifetime of curiosity and a passion for learning. Cecil Richmond was such a teacher.

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