Houston teacher pours love into children escaping abuse

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- We're taking you into a location that's kept secret for good reason.

It's a place where hundreds of women are in hiding from their abusers every year, and where kids escape too.

ABC13 was escorted to a facility that's owned and operated by the Houston Area Women's Center. Inside the facility, we went through four locked doors to get to a classroom.

It's the first time any media has been allowed into Miss Ritchie's class.

"When they come in here, it's a safe place. It's a happy place. It's a place they can grow and feel secure," said Miss Ritchie, who's first name isn't being identified for her safety and the safety of her students.

On any given day, she doesn't know what child, what age, or what circumstance will walk through her classroom door.

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"They all feel that they are inadequate. They all come in very let down and they know they have to do some growth," Miss Ritchie said. "You just try to reach them anyway that you can."

She connects with them in the time when there's so much pain and fear in their young lives. She told us that books usually help her students, and why Dr. Seuss's "Oh The Places You'll Go" is so profound to them.

"I had a little girl the first year. She was the most brilliant girl I taught. She called this 'the waiting place.' She said this is the most comfortable, safe, beautiful room to wait in until our family can go out and start our life again," Miss Ritchie said.

Ms. Ritchie said she understands how some of her students may be feeling.

"I went through something like this. I had struggles. I had some of the same situations," Miss Ritchie said. "If it wasn't for friends, family and job, I could have been here too."

Miss Ritchie calls herself a "planter."

"I'm a seed planter," she said. "That's all I can do is plant that seed. And hopefully something will spring up from them, and they will figure out what they will have to do."

Most of the time, Miss Ritchie does not get to say goodbye to her students. As unexpected as they come, they go too, but she said she will always be there with them.

"Oh, it hurts me when they leave. I cry," Miss Ritchie said. "They take a piece of me in their heart. They all tell me that. And they tell me they will never forget this place."

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