NORTH LIBERTY — Growing up, Keaton Rickels never wanted to be a teacher.
“Because my parents were teachers,” he said.
But when Rickels, now 27, went to the University of Iowa as a pre-med student, he said he started to reconsider.
“I was bored to death. That’s the best way to say it,” he said. “I could tell this might not be what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
As an athlete on the University of Iowa’s track team, Rickels was spending some of his time volunteering in area elementary schools. He realized he enjoyed that work more than what he was doing in class, and by his sophomore year had switched to studying elementary education.
Since graduating from Iowa in 2013, Rickels has taught at North Bend Elementary, a school in the Clear Creek Amana Community School District.
The Gazette is featuring Rickels as part of an ongoing series spotlighting educators in the Corridor. To nominate someone to be featured, send an email to Molly Duffy, K-12 education reporter, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are some of your favorite lessons to teach?
A: I love teaching growth mind-set lessons and lessons on character. I believe that you can never spend too much time talking to students about these skills.
Q: What’s one of the funniest things a student has said to you?
A: I frequently get told that I am a pretty lousy singer and I think that is pretty funny. It also motivates me to sing more often.
Q: What’s one of the hardest conversations you’ve had at school?
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A: One of the hardest conversations I have had to have with a student was right after a student’s family member died. It’s never easy trying to explain why those things happen, and how to work through those feelings.
Q: What keeps you motivated at work?
A: I think what motivates me most at work is knowing that any normal day of mine could be an extraordinary day for one of my students. From my personal experiences I know it is the little compliments and small successes that can really build someone’s self esteem, and I try to create as many of those moments that I can for my students.
Q: What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
A: If I wasn’t a teacher, I always tell my students that I would run fishing charters, and drive one client a week around on my yacht. But if I am being honest I would probably be in the military. I have always had a great respect for the people who serve our country in the military.
Q: Best way to get students to pay attention?
A: We have a never-ending game going on in my class similar to the house cup in the Harry Potter series. When I see students showing positive behavior their team earns points. Also, if students are participating in our discussions, than they can earn “trashball” shots where they can shoot a ball made of old papers into our designated “trashball” trash can. This is another way to earn your team points. So if I need to get the class’s attention, I might just pass the trashball to a student who is listening and the rest of the class gets the hint and is back on track.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a kid?
A: I had a lot of great teachers growing up, but my favorite teacher was definitely my father. And I don’t say that in the emotionally cliché way, but he literally was my middle school science teacher. I loved his class and so did a lot of students at my school. It helped in middle school when you had the “cool” teacher for a dad.
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