Students taught to show respect
Program teaches elementary students to show respect to others
SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. » Rich Johns feels a special connection with Aaron Judge each time the Yankee slugger steps up to the plate.
Judge’s uniform number 99 quickly became one of the most recognizable and popular this year, during a record-setting campaign that saw him blast 52 home runs, the most ever by a rookie.
But to Johns, a well-known former Saratoga Springs teacher and legendary tennis coach, the numeral 99 means something entirely different. It’s all about what’s inside each person -- the kindness they show toward others every minute of the day.
“What’s your 99?” Johns asked children at Tanglewood Elementary School in South Glens Falls on Thursday. “If you can learn to both say and give kindness, then you have a grand slam.”
The “99” concept is integral to the Act With Respect Always campaign Johns founded, which takes him to speaking engagements at schools and universities throughout the country. He came up with the “99” idea several years ago. It’s not a takeoff on Judge’s uniform number.
But Johns believes the Yankee All-Star exhibits the kind of behavior traits every kid should have.
“I think he has great character,” he said.
During Wednesday night’s do-or-die playoff game between the Yankees and Indians, Hall of Fame pitcher and broadcast analyst John Smoltz commented about Judge’s respect for the game, and others.
After a prodigious 500-foot home run, he rounds the bases without taunting the pitcher. During a hitting slump, he contributes in other ways without quitting or making excuses.
Recently, Johns sent copies of his “Act With Respect Always” book and “99” T-shirts to Judge, explaining what the program is all about.
“I sent them to Yankee Stadium and to his home in California,” Johns said. “I hear that he always responds.”
Of course, Judge and the Yankees are busy now getting ready for their American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros that begins Friday. But later this fall, Johns would be thrilled to hear back from the Bronx Bomber superstar.
Johns’ busy schedule has taken him throughout the area this fall. On Saturday, he’s presenting a program at Saratoga Springs Public Library. On Friday, Oct. 20, he’ll be speaking at the 37th annual New York State Middle School Association Conference at Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs.
In November, he’s headed to Duke University to address a Freshmen Action Group.
In contrast to “99,” Johns also stresses the importance of the number “1,” which is all about accepting someone.
Sometimes, people shut others out because of their outward appearance, race or ethnicity.
“I want you to connect to people,” he said. “It takes time, it’s not easy. The kinder you are the more you accept someone. Can you be kind all the time? I think we can.”
Rich Johns, center, presents a “99” T-shirt to children at Tanglewood Elementary School in South Glens Falls on Thursday. His “99” concept encourages kids to treat others with kindness all the time.
Rich Johns, right, a former Saratoga Springs teacher and Act With Respect Always program founder, presents a book to Trish Aday, a teacher’s aide at Tanglewood Elementary School in South Glens Falls on Thursday.