Former teacher, coach brings anti-bullying message to Brunswick middle schoolers

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BRUNSWICK – Mental health has been in the spotlight recently thanks to some of high-profile athletes.

The pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on our well-being, and that’s especially the case for some students who spent large chunks of their time separated from classmates and the comfort of routine.

All of that makes the timing right for one local educator and speaker.

"I’m going to tell you, it feels great. That’s all I can say. We’ve had a couple of tough years," said Rich Johns.

He is back in schools this fall, delivering his message of anti-bullying and mental health awareness.

"The mental health, as you know, has really taken a major focus now. In about two years, maybe 2 ½, I saw some changes in some schools and kids writing me about this, and what can we do to make our schools healthier?

Act with Respect Always was started by Johns more than a decade ago. It encourages students to approach their classmates and teachers with empathy, and it challenges them to gauge their own meter of kindness with something the former Saratoga Springs teacher and coach calls "What’s Your 99?"

"It’s the kindness in your heart. I can’t see it when I first meet you, but you show it to me by the kindness you give. You can actually evaluate your own kindness and give yourself a score and know if you’ve done well that day or not," said Johns.

Monday brought Johns to Tamarac Middle School, where he shared stories of struggle from other school districts, asking these boys and girls to make mental notes of their own experiences in the hallway and classroom.

Hear students discuss what they learned from Johns’ discussion by watching the video of Chris Onorato’s story.

MORE INFORMATION: Act with Respect Always