Editorial: Ms. Richards’ Impact and Legacy

Katie Fisher

There is a room in the English Hall. U311. Ms. Richards’ room.

Avalanche memorabilia litters the walls. A Stanley Cup banner proudly displayed center-stage. Dictionaries. Books on books line the windowsills, the shelves. Every available surface.

She’d always check out our books ahead of time. Student-ID barcode attached to the cover. Or the personalized folders handed back every period with essays graded the next class after they were completed. Always.

Paper always available next to her desk. Once it was filled with students’ essays, Ms. Richards’ knowledgeable gaze scanned over the words at a rate faster than most could comprehend. Her comments left in beautifully intricate cursive. Sometimes difficult to decipher. 

Always blunt, to the point. Often dry. But some of the most insightful commentary I have ever received on my writing.

A desk sits at the head of the room. Cups filled with stationary. A roller chair, which she would often skoot into the center of the room. She’d speak from there. Ask us questions. Recite poetry. Marvel at the endless possibilities of the written words. The emotions that can come from them. I felt that one.

She’d also give accounts of her life. She warned us once that she had only ever failed one student, during her time teaching at Cherry Creek High School. Only because the student in question set a girl’s hair on fire in her class. Mrs. Richards ran up and hugged the girl, and recalled the smell of her burning nylon cardigan to us all these years later. 

Her quiet, witty wisdom reverberated around the room. Soft spoken, but backed by 38 years of teaching experience. Wisdom which seeped from every word spoken. The class hung onto every word, too.

And, oh, the candy tray. Pink. Oval-shaped. Filled with a surplus of sweets. Passed around at the beginning of each essay. Or a piece grabbed after turning in that assignment. But always full. She never judged taking an extra piece or two either.

It didn’t stop at candy either. An entire cabinet, stocked to the brim with snacks. Granola bars, fruit snacks, tea. A pair of boys often grabbed a few snacks from it during my class. Once again, she never judged.

It’s Bread Day. Or Autumn Celebration. Emily Dickenson’s Birthday, or March Madness, AP Literature style.

The counter next to the food-stocked cabinet is littered with treats. Whether it was cakes, pies, teas, or every possible variety of bread under the sun. Food was a love language for Ms. Richards. She even brought in boxes of gourmet donuts for us on a random mid-September A-day. No true reason, besides her love for her students.

She also always connected these days back to literature. But not about the symbolism found in old tomes or poetry passages. Instead, she explored the broader implications of the lessons taught through materials and their impact on our lives.

There is a room in the English Hall. U311. Ms. Richards’ room.

Here, one of the founding matriarchs of Grandview resided. A teacher of 38 years, who didn’t want to retire. 

A motivation that was awarded with the 2023 Teacher of the Year after 25 years at Grandview.

A woman who graded papers from the hospital when she was undergoing chemotherapy last year.

An inspiration who returned this school year to teach again after going into remission.

A teacher who was in the classroom a week before her passing, working to ensure her students are cared for as she left to battle cancer a second time.

Truthfully, this story should have been written long ago. We had spoken about doing it once she returned. How I wish I could hear her own journey, from herself. 

While we cannot get that interview, we can measure her impact on the Grandview community. 25 years here, 38 in total. Thousands of individuals, staff and students alike, past and present, touched everyday by her presence. 

Ms. Richards passed on January 17th, 2023. 

Yet, she is not truly gone. Her presence, her lessons and teachings, her laughter, her traditions, will stay with every student or staff member she ever touched.

It sure has for me. 

Grandview will never forget the beautiful soul we lost, just as we cannot ever really quantify the weight her impact has had on this community.

There is a room in the English Hall. U311. Ms. Richards’ room.

Simply, Ms. Richards, thank you.

You will be greatly missed.