Featured Teachers: Andrea RickelmanNovember 19, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
DUBOIS — Brightly colored balloons clung to the walls of Northeast Dubois High School science teacher Andrea Rickelman’s classroom last week, the victims of an experiment on static electricity.
The scene illustrates a key belief in Rickelman’s, 38, education policy: when it comes to science, seeing it is just as important as reading about it. That belief in hands-on learning is key to how Rickelman structures her chemistry and physics lessons, and it’s a classroom component her students appreciate.
“She’s very hands-on, which is very helpful with our understanding,” said senior Corbyn Zehr.
For someone who never planned to be a teacher, Rickelman seems to have found her calling.
Growing up in Dubois County, the daughter of Diane King and the late William Rickelman graduated from Southridge High School in 1999 and pursued a math degree from the University of Southern Indiana. Although she was a math major pursuing minors in business and Spanish, Rickelman often found herself enrolling in education classes. She’d always been good at tutoring, she recalled, so she figured why not? By the time she graduated, she had enough education credits to get her teacher certificate.
After college, she took a job with Sylvan Learning Center, a supplemental learning center. After a few years there, she took a job as an adjunct math professor at Vincennes University Jasper Campus where she also worked in chemistry labs and as a tutor. From there, she took a math teaching job at Crawford County High School. All the while, though, she longed for a job in her community — she currently lives in Celestine with her significant other, Chris Hasenour, and their three kids, Allison, 8, Elliott, 6, and Lydia, 2.
“In those other schools, I was forming adults out of other communities’ children,” she said. “I wanted to do that same thing in my own community.”
Five years ago, she got her wish when she was hired as a math and chemistry teacher at Northeast Dubois. Part of her job also included supervising the physics classes, which were taught via recordings the school purchased. Overseeing those classes inspired Rickelman to add physics to her teaching license.
“I saw that the students really needed to have an in-house physics teacher,” she said.
Now, she teaches all the chemistry and physics classes at Northeast Dubois High School, including Advanced Placement chemistry, Advanced Placement physics and integrated chemistry and physics. Her integrated chemistry and physics class was responsible for the balloons stuck to her walls.
Being the only chemistry and physics teacher has its advantages. Often, she’ll have the same students for two or three years, so she gets to know them well. One student she formed a particularly strong bond with was Kaylin Harrison, a recent Northeast Dubois graduate. Like Rickelman, Harrison was a first-generation college student, and the two bonded over that, with Rickelman encouraging Harrison to pursue higher education.
When it came time to apply for scholarships, Harrison applied for the Realizing the Dream scholarship for first-generation college students from Independent Colleges of Indiana. For the scholarship, Harrison had to choose a teacher who had an impact on her who would receive a $1,000 professional development grant. Harrison chose Rickelman.
It’s relationships like the one she built with Harrison that keep Rickelman in education.
“My favorite part is students coming back and telling me how they use the science or see it in their lives,” Rickelman said. “They can take those things they learned here and develop them any way they want.”
That’s part of why Rickelman looks for ways to show her students how what they’re learning in the classroom applies to real life. She’s often taking field trips to VUJC science labs or to the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District. She also often invites speakers into her classroom.
Inside her classroom, Rickelman tries to keep her classes on the cutting edge by integrating technology and encouraging her students to use it. Her students create their lab reports using Google Sites, which allows them to personalize their work with videos, documents and links that enrich their education.
“As a teacher, you have to be able to change what you’re doing because the students are changing,” Rickelman said.
Although education is changing, there are skills teachers in every generation need, such as a caring attitude and patience. According to her students, Rickelman has both.
“With her, it’s OK if we don’t get it the first time, as long as we keep learning,” said senior Kaylie Bonifer. “She’ll go through it with you 100 times if she needs to.”
Seeing her students learn is the key for Rickelman. It’s what keeps teaching from feeling like work.
This story is part of Featured Teachers, a monthly series that highlights educators in our community. To suggest an educator to be featured, email Education Reporter Leann Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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