CAJUNDOME CONVENTION CENTER, Friday — It was graduation time for the College of Education at UL Lafayette.
Even before commencement began, you could tell one of the graduates had an extra special fan base.... a person who was worth the trip from St. Landry Parish.
"(Where are you today?)," I asked one second-grader in attendance. "I'm at my teacher's graduation," she answered. ("Who's your teacher?") was my follow-up. "Miss Rebecca."
("Miss Rebecca," I answered. "Ah, Miss Rebecca)."
Rebecca Spears, it seems, had touched a number of young lives as a resident teacher for 2nd-graders at Port Barre Elementary.
"Who came up with this bright idea?" I asked Amy Griffin, 2nd-grade instructor at the school. "My principal came up with this bright idea," she smiled, "and it was a wonderful idea."
"Because Rebecca's been with us our entire school year," continued Griffin, "and has developed a really good relationship with all of these kids, and they wanted to be here to support her."
It's true--- and for 37 seven, eight and nine- year olds from Port Barre, the 45-minute bus ride, and then— having to hear grown-ups talk a bit...and a bit more— all of this was offset by seeing one of their favorite people receive her college degree.
Reactions from the students? Full of superlatives.
"I wanted to see Miss Rebecca graduate."
"And she does all this work just for kids."
Halfway through the commencement at the Convention Center, our teacher of the moment, our graduate of the moment, walked onto the stage when she heard these words. "Rebecca M. Spears, Bachelor of Science."
Rebecca Spears graduated Summa Cum Laude, and about one hour and 45 minutes after the ceremony began, it was official. "I am a teacher, an elementary education teacher," beamed Spears.
She is indeed a college graduate, ready to take on the world; but this day, this moment, wouldn't have been anywhere near as magical if her kids— her Port Barre Elementary kids—hadn't been there to cheer her on.
"And then having my kids there just made it more special," she said. "They taught me so much this past year, they don't even know it."
And from the entire class came these words: "Congratulations, Miss Rebecca!!"
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