As a Family, We Grieve Together


Joe Photo

Rick Nees helping students, Lexi Aarhus jr., Reya Sands sr., and Lindsay Guffey sr., with geometry.

In devastating news, we lost one of our own. Kennedy mathematics teacher, Rick Nees has passed away from a tragic car collision in Fort Collins, Colorado on Thanksgiving morning. When students returned to school on Nov. 26., many were upset and grieving. Nees had a large impact on students, he will be missed and remembered for all the great things he did and for his personality which made students joyful.

“I miss him because he was someone you could always talk to,” Kaitlyn Biando, so., said. “To me, he was like a father figure or a crazy uncle. I miss not having a safe place, his room was always my safe place to go.”

Nees was an outstanding and spirited man. Although not all Kennedy students had him as a teacher, many still knew him and are heartbroken. Every student will deal with the loss in different ways. In the honor of Nees, there is an open mic event for students to express their memories, this Saturday, Dec. 1, 6 p.m. at Kennedy.

“I don’t know how to deal with it, when I walk into his classroom I start shaking and everything goes numb because I know he’s gone,” Biando said.

Students weren’t the only people who were feeling hurt, teachers and staff were devastated as well. Nees has been a teacher at Kennedy since Aug. 25, 2005. He has not only been a part of the Cougar family, but he changed many lives and he met many other teachers and became close with most of them.

“His impact on kids is something you just noticed, and it just magnified after an event like this,” Principal Jason Kline said. “I walked by his classroom one day and I heard him playing his guitar and singing. That is something that makes our school special, when I was teaching you didn’t catch me singing to my kids, but he did things differently, like I loved it, and everyone liked him. Mr. Nees, he got kids who didn’t like math, to actually like it and he just connected to kids like that.”

As a past student in Mr. Nees’ class, it’s very heartbreaking for me to lose his ways of teaching. The culture of his classroom was amazing. I remember he would tell silly jokes about math to help us remember the strategy, and he always did these angle puzzles that we loved. One thing I don’t think students understood was his cell phone hotel, as he assigned a number and we each put our cell phone in a drawer with your number at the beginning of class. After class, he called a number to get the cell phone back. That is one thing I appreciated because cell phones distract students a lot and the activity gave us no choice but to stay focused on what he was teaching.

Mr. Nees was a tremendous mathematics teacher for me. He taught in a way that I could understand. Math is a hard subject for many, but when Nees was in front of our class and teaching, he made math easier and understandable.

Japanese teacher Dan Carolin was a close friend to Nees.

“Kennedy won’t be the same without him, I miss him. He did so much beyond teaching math and he was constantly reaching out to kids. Whenever I asked him for a favor, he said yes with no hesitation and he did it with a smile. He will be missed,” Carolin said.

As it is very sad to see this man gone. He did great things with his life and we are very proud of him. May he rest in peace, while hoping his family recovers from this tragedy.