Though they’re too young to know him from “Happy Days,” a Jefferson Elementary kindergarten class had a special visitor to read them a story Wednesday morning — actor Henry Winkler.
A storytime with Winkler, along with some autographed photos and three of his children’s books, was part of a virtual staff holiday party raffle prize. On Jan. 13, Winkler joined Ms. Tappin’s kindergarten class and Suzy Charles’ special education class for a virtual guest appearance.
During the 30-minute high-energy Zoom call, Winkler read from a book in his Hank Zipzer series, “A Short Tale About a Long Dog,” and chatted with students, asking them about their pets, their favorite foods and what they wanted to be when they grew up. In between lengthy talks about his love of cheese and his childhood goal of becoming an actor, Winkler also took questions from students, connecting with them about their personal interests.
One kindergartener, Paisley, asked Winkler, when he was 5 years old, what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I knew when I was 5 that I wanted to be an actor. I don’t know how it came into my mind, I don’t know how it came into my body, but I really, really wanted to do that and I dreamt about it from the time I was 5 and 6 and 7, and I love it today. I still get to do what I dreamed of doing. I am very, very lucky,” he said.
After Winkler returned the question to her, Paisley said she wanted to be a chef, with her favorite thing to cook being eggs.
“You know, what? It’s very early in California,” Winkler said. “When this is over, would you make me some eggs?”
Jefferson Principal Susan Yakich knows Winkler from her time as a principal in Santa Monica.
“His grandkids went to school in Santa Monica where I was a principal. He spoke to a group of students at his grandchild's school and I reached out to him to see if he would do an assembly for the school I was working at,” Yakich said, explaining how, years later, he ended up on a Zoom with Cloverdale students. “He ended up doing an assembly for us that the students loved and he also donated books to our library (that he authored). He signed autographs and took pictures with everyone. It was so much fun.”
While brainstorming ideas for prizes for the annual staff holiday party, Yakich shared her connection to Winkler with Tappin and reached out to see if he would be able to donate an autographed photo for a raffle prize.
“He was so warm and friendly to the kiddos,” Jefferson Principal Susan Yakich said over email following the event. “It was nice he got to know them by name and the students had great questions. He made a connection with each student and made them all feel special.”
“I love that I get to do what I dreamed of doing — and I love that I get to do it all the time,” Winkler said in a parting note about acting. “I’ve written 35 novels for children, and you know what? I don’t have a favorite. I love all of them.”
“I’m so happy that I got to visit with this wonderful group of human beings. You are lovely, lovely people,” he concluded.