On the last period the first day of school my freshman year at Robert E. Lee in the fall of 1983, I walked into room 243 and asked the teacher if this was Mr. Richard’s class.  When I asked the question,  I pronounced it in the way it would be pronounced as a typical first name.  A very young Al Richard told me that no it was Mr. Richard’s class.  Obviously, he was pronouncing it with French pronunciation from the Acadiana region of Louisiana. 

I was already like a cow staring at a new gate on my first day of high school.  Finding room 243 at REL proved to be difficult because the class, which was a math class, was on the second floor of the homemaking building.    When Mr. Richard pronounced his name correctly, I was perplexed and thought I had the wrong classroom.  I turned to walk out until Mr. Richard caught me and told me that was in the right place.

This short anecdote is not displaying my lack of knowledge of Louisiana pronunciations but to accentuate the point the fact that I had indeed made it to the right classroom.   It was not just the right classroom.  It was the right teacher. 

I was not Mr. Richard’s brightest math student.  I am a right-brained person.  The mixing of mathematics with letters to solve equations just did not click with me.  However, Mr. Richard was just not a good teacher.  He was a patient teacher and he took the time to help those of us who were mathematically declined.  By happenstance, my schedules placed me in Mr. Richard’s classes for three years in a row.  I know just how blessed and fortunate I was to have him.    

Mr. Richard was just not a great teacher academically.  He was a great teacher with his involvement. He by far was one of the most involved and school spirited teachers I have ever known.  He sponsored many organizations at REL as I am sure he did at his other schools.  It was when he was at REL that he became “The Voice of Stallworth Stadium” by becoming the play-by-play announcer at football games. 

I have kept in touch with Mr. Richard through the years.  After he had gone to Sterling, per usual, the school-spirited Richard poked fun at me by mentioning “that” song.  It is the song that every Gander hated – “The Night We Drove Old Dixie Down.”  I was not amused and jokingly called him a traitor.  I cannot fault him because I know that he supported his students. While I did not like him mentioning and especially singing that horrible song to me, his dedication to his schools and students have made him only one who few people can sing the school songs of all three GCCISD high schools. 

Al Richard has served Goose Creek CISD for over 30 years in many capacities. He has been a teacher at Robert E. Lee, assistant principal at Bowie Elementary, assistant principal at RSS, principal at Horace Mann, district athletic director, director of student services, and finally had the distinction of being the inaugural principal of Goose Creek Memorial High School. He continued to serve the district after his retirement as a GCCISD board member representing District 6. 

As an educator myself, I attribute my career choice to some of the teachers I had at REL, Baytown Junior, and Travis Elementary.  Al Richard would definitely be on that list.  May 6 – 10 is National Teacher Appreciation Week.  I would be remiss if I did not say how much I appreciated Al Richard as a teacher, mentor and friend.  The only fault I can find with Al Richard is that he did not stay at GCM long enough for my son to experience him as an educator. In this week honoring teachers, I wanted to say to Al that  I appreciate you.  I know that many other students echo my sentiments.  Godspeed, Al, as you move to the next phase of your life.  

James Kingsmill is a teacher at Dayton High School and Woodrow Wilson Junior High School.

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