Graduating Omaha seniors thank former teachers with a surprise

A third-grade teacher left a lasting impression on some of Westside High School’s graduating class.
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 7:22 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s been a tough year for graduating seniors. Many are missing out on traditions or having a scaled-back version of events because of COVID-19 safety measures.

But a group of Westside High School seniors is choosing to look at the positives and honor those that have molded them during their educational careers.

“It’s really bittersweet,” said Elizabeth Harding, who is graduating from Westside High School.

These Westside seniors are back at their old stomping ground — Rockbrook Elementary — to surprise their favorite teachers, including one who holds a special place in their hearts: Mrs. Rice.

Seniors like Harding said the third-grade teacher has had a profound impact on their educational careers.

“I think that she got me into writing a lot,” Harding said. “She was really supportive and helped me learn how to write. And now I love doing it. It’s really helped me in life. Especially with college essays.”

They said being able to let her know the impact she has had on them means the world. Especially after a tough year.

“She’s always so sweet and supportive. She’s fun to be around and talk to.”

Mrs. Rice — Melodie — has been teaching in the district for 25 years. She said for her, the most emotional part is seeing these students take this next step in life.

“There are so many interests that these students have,” Rice said. “We have students going to be mechanics and biologists and that’s what I enjoy the most seeing as a teacher is all those different tracks that they are going to take as they pursue their futures.

Mrs. Rice’s former students say the pandemic has made them look back at their education and the lessons they’ve learned from great teachers like her.

“It’s given me time to calm down and reflect and remember how important things are and how much you need to appreciate what’s going on right now,” Harding said.

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