'A great deal of pride': News anchor reunites with kindergarten teacher, age 90

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/ Source: TODAY Contributor
By Terri Peters

Most adults can still remember their kindergarten teachers, but with hundreds of students passing through the classroom, it's a true show of dedication when a kindergarten teacher remembers a student after decades have passed.

So when KARE-11 morning news anchor Cory Hepola learned that Mrs. Schik, his kindergarten teacher from nearly 30 years ago, had sent a letter to his parents saying she was enjoying watching him on television, the Minnesota newscaster knew a reunion was in order.

A photo of Cory Hepola in kindergarten.Courtesy of Cory Hepola

“Hi Diane and Terry,” Lorly Schik wrote in her letter. “It is with a great deal of pride that I am now watching my former kindergarten student telecast the news on KARE-11. I still picture him as a small, dark-haired child in his K-desk!”

“I told my mom immediately, ‘I’ve got to see her,’” Hepola, 33, told TODAY Parents. “I couldn’t wait, to be honest. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her, ‘Thank you for everything.’”

Cory Hepola and Lorly Schik hug at their happy reunion.Courtesy of Cory Hepola

Hepola, who was in Schik’s class in 1987, wrote a letter back to the 90-year-old, asking her to meet with him face to face. The meeting was captured on video by KARE-11 and broadcast on the news station.

In the video, Hepola and his former teacher look at photos and share memories. When Hepola asks what Schik enjoyed most about teaching kindergarten, she responds, “Their enthusiasm and the fact that they made me feel loved — and I loved them.”

It was the love shown by her son that prompted Hepola’s mom, Diane, to write a touching note at the close of her son’s kindergarten year — one that Schik has saved throughout the years since her retirement.

A photo of Cory Hepola's kindergarten class on stuffed animal day. (Cory is in the bottom left corner holding a black and white teddy bear; Mrs. Schik is in the center of the back row.)Courtesy of Cory Hepola

“You have made a positive impression on Cory’s life and many others. You should be very proud of your teaching skills,” Diane wrote.

“I tried to hold it in, but I cried when I read it,” Hepola said of the note. “My mom is the very best person in the world, and her kind words meant a lot to Mrs. Schik. I’m thankful to have people like this in my life.”

“The reunion has meant a great deal to me and my family,” continued Hepola, adding that he plans to visit Schik again in a few weeks with his wife, Camille, and 10-month-old son, Cormac.

Lorly Schik and Cory Hepola caught up and got reacquainted at their reunion.Courtesy of Cory Hepola

Diane Hepola said she and her husband were deeply touched to find that Schik remembered their son, and that she took the time to look up their address and send a note.

“Connecting with Mrs. Schik brought back happy memories of Cory as a little boy who loved dinosaurs, the Minnesota Vikings and suspenders on his pants,” Hepola’s mom said. “We love that she reached out to us. We love that Cory took the time to reply back to her with his handwritten note to see if they could connect. And, we love that through this story of teachers and students, we realize the importance of taking a village to raise a child.”