by Moira Cullings
SHAWNEE — When Joe Regan’s cousin Matt was first starting kindergarten, Regan wanted to help calm his nerves.
Rather than a simple “Good luck!,” Regan took it upon himself to visit Matt’s classroom whenever he had the chance.
“He was just starting, so to make him feel welcome, I would just come down [to the class] and help him out,” said Regan.
“But then, the next year, I decided to come down to kindergarten every day because it was fun and I got to help out with the kids,” he said.
Regan, who is set to graduate from eighth grade at St. Joseph School in Shawnee this month, was only in second grade when he started making his trips down to Julie King’s kindergarten classroom.
Since then, he has gone back almost every day.
“He’s a big help, especially at the beginning of the year when I’m trying to get [the students] organized,” said King.
If the kids were acting out or struggling with a subject, her young helper would calm them down and sometimes even give her a unique way to solve the problem, she said.
“He talks to them, quiets them down, helps them with their morning work and just loves them,” she said. “They love him.”
Regan makes his visits every morning when he has free time. He’s there to offer King a helping hand and brighten the kindergartners’ days.
King, who taught Regan when he was in kindergarten, is grateful for all the help he has so generously offered her classes the past seven years.
“It’s been awesome to see him grow,” she said.
“I took it for granted when he was in fifth and sixth [grade]. And then, this year, I was, like, ‘This is the last year he’s going to come.’ It’s very sad,” she said. “But I know he’s going on to great things.”
To show Regan how much the kindergartners appreciated him, King surprised him with a farewell celebration during her class. As Regan entered the room, one by one the students’ faces lit up.
It’s clear that they look up to Regan, said King. He’s a wonderful role model.
The class enjoyed cake and presented Regan with a sweatshirt from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where he’ll start in the fall.
“It will definitely be weird [to leave],” said Regan. “If I was in a bad mood one day, I would come down here and I’d just feel happy.”
But Regan is excited to see what the future holds for him at his new school.
King remains inspired by the small acts of kindness Regan demonstrated throughout his time at St. Joseph.
“A few weeks ago, Father Mike [Hawken] gave a homily around the loaves and fish miracle,” she said. “He said, ‘A little bit goes a long way.’
“I think Joe lives this every day.”