Local teacher’s act of kindness gets national attention


SOUTHPORT, Fla. (WMBB) — A Bay County elementary school teacher is lifting hearts across America with an act of kindness that’s gotten national attention. 

North Bay Haven’s Katie Ricca teaches first grade and has been holding virtual storytime for her students to connect with her and their classmates during the quarantine.

“They enjoy talking as much as they could in class,” said Ricca on Friday. “I knew that they needed a way to continue to communicate a little bit.”

Every day her students log on, by choice, to hear her read to them; then they chat, in order to keep a sense of closeness during a worldwide period of separation.

“I think it’s really important,” said Ricca. “A lot of them do not understand what’s going on right now and they have a whole bunch of different emotions.”

For one of her students, Hannah Close, those emotions began to surface last week during one of the storytime sessions.

“After I was [finished] reading the book, I was trying to talk to them,” said Ricca. “I noticed that she had laid her head down.”

Ricca said that Hannah is normally as bubbly as can be, but that day, she could tell that the first-grader was shutting down. Hannah’s mother, Kelley Close, noticed it too.

“We turned it off, I asked her what was wrong,” said Close. “She said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know I just feel really sad.'”

Hannah later put into words why she felt that way.

“I miss my classmates,” she said. “I miss playing with them.”

After logging off, Close said that what happened next took her by surprise, when Ricca messaged her asking if she could come over to her home to see Hannah in person, at a safe distance.

“I was just hoping that I could bring a little joy to her,” said Ricca.

Book in hand, six feet apart, Ricca, who has five kids of her own, spent over an hour reading and talking to Hannah in person, on the sidewalk.

“I still wanted to be able to talk to her and figure out what was going on and help her through,” she said.

Close said it was an emotional moment.

“When people step in to help, even if it’s just sitting in the driveway reading a story, you realize that we’re going to be okay,” said Close, who took a photo of the two sitting on the sidewalk. 

That photo has since gone viral; even shared on ABC’s Good Morning America. Ricca said she’s happy it’s spreading light in the darkness.

“I’m very glad that it’s warmed so many people’s hearts,” she said. 

Since then, Ricca said Hannah’s back to being her bubbly self, logging on to storytime until the stories can be told in person once again.

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