RICHMOND, Ind. — ‘Shocked’ was the word thrown around at the start of the May 11 school board meeting in Richmond. Whether it’s “definitely”, “completely”, “totally” or any other universal adverb, Tori Johnson, Derek Worch, Jamie Thomas and Pam Jacot were all in shock just eight days ago.
The four were honored May 3 at the Richmond Community Schools Celebration of Excellence. Johnson was named district and elementary teacher of the year, Worch, high school teacher of the year, Thomas, administrator of the year, and Jacot, support person of the year.
You can tell how surprised each of them was by the stories they shared during Wednesday’s meeting.
As she sat onstage with the other nine building teachers of the year, Johnson said, she turned to Westview Elementary nominee Abby King and said, “We’re not going anymore. far.” Vaile’s fourth-grade teacher didn’t know she won the district honor in just her fourth year on the job.
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Worch celebrates his fifth anniversary as a French teacher at Richmond High School, which happened “by chance”.
Worch started as a substitute at the RCS in October 2016 after living abroad for a bit. The following January, he replaced for an automobile class. During his project period, he replaced the French class, which brought back memories and prompted him to leave a note.
“This was my classroom when I was a student at RHS,” Worch’s note read. “I studied French in college. If I can help you, let me know.
Shortly after, he received a call asking if he would stay for the rest of the semester and joined full-time in November 2017.
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Worch still teaches at R102, the same room where he learned French as a student in Richmond. Board member Keith Morey, another Richmond grad, asked if the hall still had “that beautiful red carpet.”
“Yeah, I do,” Worch enthused as laughter filled the room. “It’s iconic in the building. I think there may only be one other class that has it.
Before we move on, board member Kristen Brunton wanted to thank Worch and Johnson, having experienced each of their potential firsthand.
“My three children all had Mr. Worch as a teacher, and I appreciate the way he cares about and works with students, so thank you,” Brunton said. “Tori was a former student of mine at IU East. She was a fantastic student and I’m so glad she stayed in Richmond.
Thomas’ 18-year journey through RCS has been all over the place. She started her freshman year at Fairview Elementary before being displaced and moved to Garrison Elementary, which soon closed. She then found a home at Starr Elementary before moving on to Test Intermediate. Thomas has been at Test for three years now, only the last semester as principal, and said, “That’s where I’d like to stay,” which prompted more laughs.
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Jacot is retiring after this school year, his 36th year at the RCS. She said she remembers when some of the current council members were in high school and added how fun it was to watch them grow up and have families of their own.
Superintendent Curtis Wright was one of them. Jacot began his RCS career at CR Richardson Elementary. She said she was hired by John Bender, the school principal at the time, and asked the board if anyone remembered him. Wright said, “I know him too well.”
“You used to hold my hand and walk me through the halls of CR Richardson when Dr. Bender was looking for me,” Wright jokingly recalled to Jacot.
Jacot is currently in Youth Community Services, and while “it’s been a great adventure,” she said she’s ready to check off a few other things on her retirement to-do list.
“I really appreciate the recognition. I really do,” Jacot said. “Thirty-six years is a long time, and I’m ready to keep going and see what happens.”