Monday, August 5, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Don Rickett

By Don Rickett, Class of 1965, English and Speech major, Psychology and Philosophy minor

“The Duke,” Dr. Richard Snyder, considered by students as the most difficult English professor during my time at Ashland College from 1961-1965, was my mentor. He was my counselor, my freshman English instructor, and my Advanced Composition instructor. As a farm boy from Wooster, Ohio, I needed a professor who would not put up with my nonsense and would force me to study. His power-teaching methods forced me to learn the rules for writing essays. Coming from a small school in Wayne County, I had not written an essay in my life. In fact, I failed the first three essays from Dr. Snyder; however, I ended doing well not only in the freshman course, but also in his Advanced Composition course. I adopted his methods as a teacher for my 43 years as a writing instructor for high school and college students. After finishing Ashland College, I went on to receive two Master of Arts degrees from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. One was for Public Address (Speech) and the other one was for Secondary Administration. 

I taught high school English for thirty-nine years (1965-2004) with four years in Ohio and thirty-five years at Greenfield-Central High School in Greenfield, Indiana. During my thirty-five years at Greenfield-Central High School, I also taught in the evenings and on weekends all three levels of freshman English at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) for four years. Working in conjunction with the writing program directors of fifteen colleges and universities in Indiana, I developed the writing program at Greenfield-Central High School. In 1977, only 5% of the seniors at Greenfield-Central High School were testing out of or being exempt from a freshman English course in college. By 1984, because of my program that percent increased to 55%. In addition, during that period, I assisted seniors in getting a total of $14 million in scholarships with many of those scholarships requiring evidence of writing skills. In 1994, I developed The Writer’s Notebook for my students. This manual contains all the writing notes I expected students to have so they could listen to the instruction instead of taking notes during the instruction. In 2001, Greenfield-Central High School adopted this manual as the official writing manual for all students.

I have been president of Sertoma of Greenfield and the Greenfield-Central Classroom Teachers’ Association, chairman of the English Department at Greenfield-Central High School and of the negotiating team for the teachers in the Greenfield-Central School Corporation, a building representative for the teachers in this corporation for thirty years. I have developed drug seminars and job seminars for teens, worked as a GED instructor for Greenfield-Central and Walker Career Center, and developed the writing program, created a writing center, co-authored a Health Curriculum Guide for grades K-12, and co-authored the Gifted and Talented Curricula for Greenfield-Central High School. I even served as one of the original directors for the creation of the Indiana Teachers of Writing Association, which I am still a member of today

After retirement from high school teaching, I became the Writing and Speech instructor for Vincennes University. I was the instructor for their courses in Greenfield for four years. For the next two years I tutored high school seniors with writing fundamentals to assist them in achieving higher scores for the SAT and ACT exams. The goals for all of these students proved to be achieved. In 2010, I finally ended my career.

During my teaching career, I was Teacher of the Year from Greenfield-Central High School four times (1984-2001), Greenfield-Central School Corporation one time (1999), and an Indiana State Finalist one time (1999). Also, I was given an award five times for Influential Teacher (1994-2001) and a Faculty Award for Most Effective In-Class Learning Experience (1989). I was selected as Sertoman of the Year for Indiana (1984) for services to the community, and I was the creator and original director of the Central Indiana Chess Association. The State Superintendent recognized my Senior Technical English program as the only such program for non-college bound seniors in Indiana.