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EXCHANGE: Teacher honors former students with Wall of Fame

October 4, 2018

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) — A St. Dominic teacher doesn’t have to look far to remember former students.

They’re all part of her Wall of Fame.

Part of a wall in Donna Richmiller’s classroom is covered with photos and newspaper clippings featuring her students.

“There’s pictures under pictures. It’s layered. There’s Christmas cards, wedding invitations, invitations to West Point graduations,” Richmiller said. “These are my friends. I’ve got a lot of them. I’ve got a lot of friends.”

The wall’s a reminder -- along with a celebration of the students and what they’ve accomplished.

“She’s awful proud of that wall, proud of her students,” fellow teacher Nan Wood said.

“It’s their goals. They did it all,” Richmiller said. “I just kept a picture of them.”

One donated a kidney to a classmate. Another was wounded while serving his country. Some are fighting cancer. Many are raising a family, and sending their children to St. Dominic. One died in a car wreck, but “I haven’t lost very many of them,” she said.

Richmiller had to move the wall once when she changed classrooms -- “It was horrible,” she said -- and the next time it moves will be her last day at St. Dominic, whenever that will be. “They’ll go with me,” she said.

Richmiller started the wall with just one photo some 25 or 30 years ago then kept adding to the collection. She adds newspaper clippings, laminated to last longer, and photos she’s taken along with photos supplied by proud parents and students.

“I’m running out of room,” she said. “There’s so many times I wish I would have taken pictures. My only regret is I didn’t start 34 years ago.”

Teaching full-time never was Richmiller’s plan. She was subbing at St. John’s, where her daughters went to school, and the principal there passed on her name to the principal of St. Dominic who needed a teacher.

“The nun called. I said, ‘Sorry, not interested.’ She called back and got hold of my husband. He said, ‘I’ll send her over,’ and she offered me a job on the spot,” Richmiller said.

In the classroom, Richmiller gained a second family beyond her husband Rick, their two grown daughters and now four grandchildren who also have a place on the wall.

For 30 of her years in the classroom, she’s worked with eighth-graders, not only teaching them but also being involved with the class trips, honors ceremonies and graduations.

“I want them to know that they are loved, to pick a goal and go for it and more than anything that they have got a friend in me,” Richmiller said. “Be someone you would be proud to know, and they are.”

There’s no space for captions with most of the photos, but that doesn’t matter.

“I know who they are,” Richmiller said.

Current students stop in to check out the wall and look for older brothers and sisters.

“I can’t tell you how many times during the course of the day I look at it. I think they’ve got my back,” Richmiller said.

“It’s fun to do, fun to have them come back and look ... and feel like they’re still wanted here,” she said. “I’ve wasted time in my life, but I did not waste time being with these kids. I’d love to have them all back. They were pretty cool as eighth-graders. As grown-ups they may not have time for me, but as eighth-graders they didn’t have a choice.”


Source: The (Quincy) Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/2OxCicC


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

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