NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) — KFOR wants to spotlight Remarkable Women in Oklahoma!
After receiving many nominations we have 4 finalists for our Remarkable Women in Oklahoma spotlight. This is the first in the series until we reveal the winner.
School begins in Mrs. Lily Richardson’s classroom just like it does everywhere.
“All right, boys and girls, head to your table spot,” Mrs. Richardson announced.
In Norman, these Reagan Elementary second graders learn all the basics – math, English, science, and so on… But cooking?
“Right now, we are going to be making pasta today for our boiling water class,” she said, as her students cheered. “You need the intense heat at 212 degrees of boiling water.”
It’s called “Kids Can Cook,” a curriculum Lily cooked up herself to teach skills the kids can use beyond the classroom.
“A lot of my students in this specific demographic that my school caters to, don’t have a lot of home-cooked meals,” she said. “A lot of these parents at home are working late. They don’t have the means or the time to prepare and have their kids cook with them.”
“The first class of the month is a nutrition-based class where we explore a different food and what it does to our body, and then the second class that we do is a kitchen-skill class, and that could be cracking eggs, measuring dry or wet ingredients, whisking.”
Lily wrote and received three grants. She used the money for new STEM materials, art supplies, PE equipment, books, and cooking appliances.
“As a reminder, we are working with a hot plate today, so do you come near my table?” she asked her students. “No,” they replied in unison.
In this boiling lesson, Lily teaches her class about steam, boiling point, and how the water can soften noodles. “I’m going to let you try a dry spaghetti noodle, ok?” she asked as she handed one to each child. “It doesn’t taste very good!” one student said, laughing.
By the end of the edible science lesson, every child, with smiles on their faces, got to throw a cooked noodle at the classroom window to see if it stuck, meaning the pasta was ready.
“What does ‘al dente’ mean?” she asked the class. “Perfectly cooked,” they responded. “You guys just learned Italian!” she said.
Each child then chose between spaghetti sauce or alfredo sauce, sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
“This is so good!” one student proclaimed.
Lily pays for all of the food herself, which the students get to devour, and then take home any extras. And that’s not all she purchases for the students, whom she calls her “kids.”
“When there are no coats, or gloves, or hats, I like to keep those here at school. I send them home at the end of the year with a class t-shirt, so I know they have a fitting t-shirt for the summer. Probably throughout my 4 years, I’ve definitely spent upwards of thousands of dollars on the classroom.”
It might come as no surprise that Lily is Reagan Elementary’s teacher of the year. Her students adore her, especially 8-year-old Remy.
Remy has lived in many foster homes and has had many different teachers. Mrs. Richardson is his favorite. But he calls her something else – “Mom.” Remy’s last foster home was Lily’s house, and from day one, she and her husband knew it would be forever. And in February of 2022, they sealed the deal, adopting Remy and giving him a permanent home.
“He came in, night one, he asked if he can call us Mom and Dad,” Lily said. Remy followed with, “It feels good. They are nice to me. We do fun things together.”
Mrs. Richardson also attends her students’ weekend activities and birthday parties when she’s able, making each child in her classroom feel safe, secure, loved – and full, just like Remy.
“I wake up every day and I hope that they’re all here. All of them here are my kids,” Lily said.
And that’s what makes Lily Richardson one of Oklahoma’s most remarkable women.