Beloved English teacher leaves legacy of kindness

“Put more kindness into the world than you take out.” —Scott Lawrence-Richards

Almost everyone who knew English teacher Scott Lawrence-Richards was bombarded by one of his rants or explanations at some point in time. The man was notorious for his inability to quit talking. While some might see his nonstop chatter as a form of narcissism, I always viewed it as a demonstration of his passion. The man had a passion to teach, and with a knowledge as extensive as his own, he had much to offer those around him.

SLR had a desire to bring kindness to others. A lot of times people peg the big, loud, (sometimes a little offensive), boisterous ones as self centered. And while at times, Mr. Lawrence-Richards was all of these things, he always did so in a way that was kind. Even when he was politically incorrect, or when he really crossed the line talking about Lysistrata, he was only doing so because he was trying to connect with individuals, or bring a little bit of uncensored humor into their lives.

Lawrence-Richards exuded kindness and love to those around him. He had a passion for teaching, he had a passion for giving, and he had a passion for his students.

Honestly, I’m not sure if many understand the passion that he had for his students.

My dad was Lawrence Richard’s attorney. A couple of weeks before he passed away, Lawrence Richard’s met with him to discuss an estate plan. He had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer. My dad visited him in his home at the time because he was already bedridden.

SLR shared many things with my dad that day. My father is generally not permitted to share his conversations with his clients, but Lawrence-Richards gave him the permission to share a few things with me and all those who cared about him. He told my dad that he wasn’t afraid to die. He told him that he hoped his life was one that people would look back on and see kindness. And he told him about his love for his students.

“Mark,” he said. “My students mean so much to me. Clare was such a wonderful student.” He wrought his hands in his lap. “I don’t want to be too forward, but you could tell her that she could come visit me if she’d like.”

These were the words that my father relayed to me once he arrived back home that Friday evening.

I didn’t really know what to say to them. I didn’t feel like I deserved to see him — this dying man who taught me about Ethan Frome and Crime and Punishment. I felt unworthy. Why would he ask for me?

And then I realized that it had nothing to do with me.

It was about his students. SLR loved his students, and I understood then that it was my job to go to him and make sure that he knew his students loved him too.

So I went.

The next day I called his home residence and I asked what time I could come over; I was there in the early afternoon. It was difficult. He sat in a bed, sagging in all of the wrong places. The man who once had never stopped talking struggled to find the strength to speak. I sat down in a rose colored armchair at his bedside. I said hello. He said hello back. He told me how much it meant to him that I had come.

“It’s examples of things like this. This is such an act of kindness, Clare. People are so kind. I’ve always tried to show others kindness. It’s so important to show others love.” His voice broke. He paused, leaning back into his pillow and looking at the ceiling; willing the tears not to fall. “It’s just such an act of kindness that you are here.” He closed his eyes to shut out the tears, but they fell anyway.

He cried in front of me; a man whom I had always known to laugh and joke; a man who made inappropriate sexual innuendos about Lysistrata; a man who constantly mispronounced people’s names to the point that it was almost offensive; a man who wrote incredibly in depth reviews for the school play. He cried in front of me. And I cried too.

I told him then how important he was to all of us. I told him how much his students loved him.

“You mean so much to us,” I said. “You were such a great teacher, Mr. Lawrence-Richards. We all love you so much.”

SLR truly loved his students, and he expressed that love in his own uniquely peculiar ways.

Some people will remember him for his strong opinion in regards to the pronunciation of onomatopoeia. Some will remember him for the days he would burst into classrooms and give his own mini lectures. Some will remember him for his inability to quit interrupting the movies he showed in class with his personal opinions or remarks about the filming.

But I hope all will remember him for the kindness and love he shared with others.

In his final interview with the Tiger Hiline, Mr. Lawrence-Richards shared what he hoped to be remembered by for the faculty and students at CFHS.

“They’ll likely remember me as loud, a bit off beat, good at the stuff I taught and mildly obnoxious. I’d like to think they might recall that I tried to be kind, was always enthusiastic about my content and cared deeply about my students’ learning. That’s enough.”

“There was never a dull moment in his class, as he’d keep you engaged through his various antics and extreme volume. One minute he’d be going over the interpretation of the red pickle dish and the next he’d be participating in the new ‘Usain Bolt’ trend. Scott Lawrence-Richards was the kind of guy that you just couldn’t predict what he’d do next. Every class was an adventure.”

—Gabe Gotera 2017 grad

“My favorite SLR memory actually occurred from the first day until the last day of my senior year. On the first day of class when he was calling roll, instead of merely addressing me as ‘Olivia’ he proceeded to call me ‘Oooolivia.’ Every single day, without a doubt, he would call me that. Even when I didn’t have him the next semester, he would greet me as ‘Oooooolivia’ as loud and confidently as he could. While some people thought it was weird, it made me feel remembered. I’ve always had people forget who I am, and him constantly addressing me like that made me feel like I was not the bland forgettable person I thought I was. He made me feel remembered, and I will never forget him because of that fact.”

Oliva Westemeier 2017 grad

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