Name: Ginger Riddle
Position: Math teacher, teaching geometry and Advanced Placement calculus this year
School: Leavenworth High School
Experience: Five years teaching math at LHS, 9.5 as a gifted education facilitator before that, and six years teaching in other states as an Army wife.
Hometown: Warrensburg, Mo., and Bedford, Iowa
Education: Master of Science in mathematics, 2012, and Master of Science in Education from Kansas State University, 1991.
Interests and hobbies: I enjoy reading, swimming, shopping at the farmer’s market. I took scuba diving last month and am hoping to try diving someplace interesting over spring break. I developed an interest in nutrition and health a few years ago. Over 9/10 of my high school students so far enjoy drinking green smoothies made from leafy greens, fruit and water.
In several sentences explain how and why you decided to become an educator.
To be honest, as a teenager I thought I wanted to do something more lucrative. I started college as a computer science major. I just couldn’t enjoy spending so much time in front of a computer screen, though. In teaching, there is infinite variety. (But a lot more computer use than I expected.)
Who is a teacher or professor who inspired you and how?
My high school science teacher, Mr. Hall, made a difference for me by starting a computer programming class. The ability to break a process down into its component parts is useful in any profession, but especially in teaching. Simplifying something that is complex can be a real challenge, but teachers do their best every day to accommodate the individual abilities and levels of understanding of their students. Mr. Hall did a great job of helping each student learn at his or her own pace.
Who is someone in current events whom you admire and why?
Three people whose commentary I try to keep up with are Dan Meyer on math education, Joel Fuhrman on nutrition and Marion Nestle on the politics of food. All three have good ideas based on thorough research, and speak out with the courage of their convictions.
What are the greatest challenges in education today?
At a local level, I have to say that teaching about 150 students every day is a tremendous challenge. As classroom sizes increase, a teacher’s ability to establish a positive relationship with each student decreases. It’s incredibly difficult to know students on a personal level and ensure success for each one when you teach so many.
On the state level, the current Legislature’s desire to infringe on teachers’ right to speak collectively through their union is disturbing. Teachers are busy people who need an advocate who understands state politics and speaks on behalf of them and their students. Teachers in Kansas are educated people who know that membership in a union is not a requirement, so for legislators to claim that they are somehow protecting public employees’ paychecks is ludicrous.
Page 2 of 2 - At the national level, I think this country is not doing enough to encourage bright students to become educators.
What advice can you offer for someone who wants to go into education?
Never stop learning yourself; your enthusiasm for learning will be contagious. Expect to put in much more than 40 hours a week if you want to feel prepared to make learning engaging, relevant, and challenging, and to provide an environment where children can experiment, debate, question, and make mistakes. Have high expectations. Admit mistakes and strive constantly to improve.
What teaching moment is most memorable?
I don’t think I can choose a single moment. It’s so rewarding to be contacted by a former student and told that you’ve made a difference. I love getting letters and graduation announcements from graduates, being flagged down at a shopping center by a former student home on leave, or getting an email message when a student needs advice or wants to share some with future grads. Those are the moments that make all the hard work and long hours worthwhile.