Nikki and Russell

Image 1 of Nikki and RussellHow We Met: Russell and I met while teaching at an elementary school in Lake Mary, FL. He is a PE coach and I am a kindergarten teacher. It was my first year of teaching and his 4th. I was a brand new teacher who had never set foot in a kindergarten classroom. I had all this new responsibility and it was quite overwhelming. I had noticed Russell around the school before at meetings, events, etc, but had never said more than “hi” to him. I was too focused on my career and giving my students the best education possible. I had a pretty active life, busy with friends, teaching, and trying to help out as much as possible at school events. I was doing my best to stay on top of everything as well as working late to keep up with my brand new schedule. Because of this, I hadn’t thought much about seriously dating anyone at this point. But by November, Russell and I had started flirting very innocently at meetings or in the halls. You know, that middle school type of flirting, but still never talking for more than a minute. One day it just kind of clicked for me when he was out at the car ramp, putting the students into their cars and I said to myself “I think I have a crush on him.” I never expected that feeling to pop up since we both worked together, but seeing the way he interacted with children just sparked something in me. Being a teacher, I love children and hope to one day have some of my own. I just knew this man was a kindhearted person and I had to get to know him. Of course I had to be the one to chase after him though. He was too nice and later told me “I wasn’t sure if you had a boyfriend or not so I didn’t want to make a move.” I started helping out at his PE races on Saturdays at the school to try and talk to him more, see what he was like apart from being a teacher. I found him incredibly sweet with a good heart, but he never asked for my number. Finally, the day before we left for Thanksgiving break I was doing a Zumba class under the pavilion with some of the other teachers after all the students had left. As he was locking up his classroom, I thought “Here’s my chance, just ask him!” So I grew the courage to ask him if he wanted to hangout outside of work that evening at World of Beer with my roommate and some of our friends. My roommate at the time was also a teacher so I figured this way he’d know someone else there. He said yes! Then we both awkwardly stood there until he asked for my number. He was clearly new at this .

That night I anxiously waited for the time to arrive to meet this man outside of our work setting. Like any other girl, I played it over and over again in my head. I thought he wasn’t going to show or that he wasn’t into me since he hadn’t texted me asking me for details or a time to meet up. Finally a half hour before we were supposed to leave I saw my phone light up. I jumped immediately and unlocked my phone to see if it was him. Sure enough it was. We met up later that night at World of Beer with a few of my friends and his cousin who he lived with at the time. We found we had commonalities outside of teaching. One of those being a shared love of country music. He told me his favorite artist was Jason Aldean, who I too loved, but unfortunately did not have his CD at the time. We had a wonderful evening, joking, flirting, laughing, and sipping on a few beers. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I left that night. I waited patiently the whole next day for him to text me. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore I texted him saying I had a wonderful evening and GO Gators (the Gators were playing that weekend and he’s a MAJOR fan). I waited and waited and waited and finally got a reply hours later. Of course at this point I had no faith in the fact that he liked me. He finally texted me and since then I have realized he is a man who pays little to no attention to his phone. After that long Thanksgiving weekend passed, we returned to work on Monday. Russell showed up to my classroom door just after the bell rang with Jason Aldean’s new CD at the time. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding. It was such a sweet gesture to show he had not only listened, but that he cared. We continued on about our work days as normal, not mentioning to anyone that we had started to talk more than as coworkers because we didn’t quite know the boundaries. There were teachers at our school who were married and taught on separate grade levels and even another couple that was dating, but as a first year teacher I wasn’t sure if this was “allowed.” Teaching was my everything and the last thing I wanted to do was get in trouble. However, we just couldn’t deny the spark we felt together. On December 4, 2012 he asked me out on our first date. He took me to my favorite restaurant, Olive Garden (I love their chicken parmesan). When dinner was over we decided we didn’t want the night to end so we went back to where we first hung out at World of Beer. From there our relationship was a whirlwind. We knew this wasn’t going to just be a fling and that we were developing sincere feelings for each other so we approached our principal. She was thrilled for our new budding relationship and gave us the “ok” to continue seeing each other outside of work. Russell asked me to be “his girl” on December 16, 2012. Since then we have been dating for two and a half years. We’ve been living together for a year and loving every minute of it. Our favorite hobby is traveling. Any spare time we have we travel. We’ve traveled throughout much of our home state of Florida, but have also ventured outside of the state and out of the country. We’ve been to numerous country concerts and visited places that are breath taking. Russell is the most romantic man I’ve ever dated. He surprises me with flowers randomly just to say “I love you.” He plans unique little surprises for me on our anniversary or just to let me know he’s thinking of me. One of my favorite surprises was when I came home to rose petals on the ground leading the way to a giant rose heart with a jewelry box in the middle and candles all around the room. Russell is the most romantic, down to Earth, funny, loving, kind, passionate, caring person I have ever met. He has spent numerous hours outside of his PE job cutting out patterns for my kindergartners. He has chaperoned plenty of field trips with me and is always asking “What can I do to help?” There are not enough words to express my excitement, joy, and gratitude I feel for this man. I am beyond lucky to get to spend the rest of my life with him.

how they asked: Russell and I had chosen to go to Charleston, SC for our two and a half year anniversary. We left Thursday, June 11th for four nights of fun and sight seeing. We both love the outdoors and traveling so we try to take advantage of that love any free chance we get. On Friday, June 12, Russell said he made reservations for a nice dinner at Middleton Place, a plantation I was dying to go to. He said it was our anniversary dinner. Leading up to the arrival of the plantation he was very adamant about making it there by 5:30. Our reservation wasn’t until 7pm though so of course I wasn’t thinking there was a need to really get there by 5:30. We pull up to the plantation and it was simply stunning. I love oak trees and greenery. I also LOVE taking pictures and capturing our memories on film so I stopped to take a few pictures of the plantation. He insisted we hurry along and started asking people where the Octagonal Garden was. I thought it was a little weird that he knew the name of a specific place on this plantation, but found it sweet that he had taken the time to look up this area (usually I’m the one that plans out our trips).

We finally made it to the garden and there was a photographer there “shooting the landscape.” Russell asked him if he could take a picture of us since he knew how much “capturing” our traveling was important to me. The photographer said he didn’t mind, but that he’d take it on his professional camera instead. Before I knew it Russell was getting down on one knee and expressing his love.

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I was in complete shock and excitement as the man of dreams asked me to marry him. Afterwards they explained to me that they had set it all up a month prior and that the photographer was there to take some proposal pictures. We walked around for a little bit enjoying the scenery and taking some pictures.

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Russell said it wasn’t the exact location that he wanted to propose at, but he was so nervous and excited that he just got down on one knee right then and there. Afterwards, Russell set up a romantic dinner inside the Inn on the plantation. He had rose petals delivered to our lake view table and a bottle of champagne awaiting our arrival. It was so well thought out and incredibly romantic.

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Photography by Charles Merry