Meet our newest Featured Educator, Ryan Woith from Livingston Area Career Center in Illinois! He is an amazing teacher and we are so excited to have him as our Featured Educator! I had the chance to talk to Ryan about his personal story, hear how Roadtrip Nation is influencing his students, and even hear about his serendipitous encounter with the Green RV!
Molly: Where were you when you were a teenager and how did you get to where you are today?
Ryan: My road was not a traditional journey for the typical teacher. In high school I was very shy; in fact, I had what some would consider a severe stutter. It was very hard for me to communicate on any level with someone, let alone a large crowd. The one thing that I loved doing and helped build my confidence was bowling. When I was 12, I had the opportunity to become a coach and I was hooked. Nothing can beat the excitement of helping a kid, then watching them beat their high game or even get a strike for the first time. I still coach to this day but it has evolved into running an autism bowling league with my wife.
One personality trait I am proud of is the ability to overcome adversity. While in college, I decided if I was ever going to improve myself, it had to begin with my speech. Soon after, I became a waiter at a restaurant because I was not going to let a disability hold me back from my dreams. I ended up working there for 4 years and when I left, I was the senior waiter and the manager’s assistant.
After my first degree was finished, which was in graphic communications, it still did not feel like this degree was the right fit. I settled for a series of sales jobs that would help me keep a steady income, but I wanted to challenge myself to improve speech patterns. After 9/11, I was laid off my last sales job and it was like an opportunity for me to do what I always wanted to do: teach. I went to the local community college to maybe go into computer programming. As soon as I sat down with guidance counselor she looked at my transcript and said, “You should teach”. She was about the tenth person in my life that said I should be a teacher, so I finally listened. The next day I went back to Illinois State University to meet the technology advisor and the rest is history.
Molly: How do you see Roadtrip Nation influencing your students?
Ryan: This is my first year as a Roadtrip Nation teacher and I view the curriculum as a way to help us open the doors for students. After a few short weeks, they start to look back into their past and remember what they loved doing as kids and how they can make that a career. It is fun hearing what they want to do after school while exploring what could be their life’s work. They are beginning to take chances, not be afraid of failure, while looking for ways to improve and challenge themselves. Since Roadtrip Nation, we have developed a new saying in our class: “Failure is an option.”
Molly: What is a memorable Roadtrip Nation moment in your classroom?
Ryan: I was driving to Walmart to meet up with my carpool that leaves from Bloomington to Pontiac when I saw a Green RV in the Walmart parking lot. I was so nervous and excited when I saw it that I called one of the other Roadtrip teachers at school, Jack Bristow, and said, “I have a moral dilemma. I am standing 5 feet from the Roadtrip RV, should I knock?” His response: “Heck yes.” So with butterflies in my stomach, I knocked on the door. Mike, one of the Roadtrippers, looked out the window and asked if he could help me. I said I was a Roadtrip teacher and is there anyway I could meet them. Then Megan opened the door and welcomed me in. They were asleep and within minutes they gave me a quick tour of the RV and hats, stickers, and sticky notes for my students. While I was leaving, I asked them if they could come to the Livingston Area Career Center after being at ISU.
Around 1:30 later that day, I received a phone call saying they were on their way. Soon the school was buzzing in anticipation of their arrival. At about 2:50, the green RV was pulling up in our parking lot.
They announced to the school the RV was here and in only a few minutes, over 200 kids, teachers, administrators and our superintendent come out to meet them. It was exciting for everyone and I was on cloud nine. Many kids could not believe that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was happening to their small school. The Roadtrippers signed autographs, took pictures, shared stories of past interviews, favorite people they have met, and signed t-shirts given to the students. They stayed for about an hour and were so friendly. Before they left, I had them place their mark on my classroom by signing a T-square to hang on my classroom ‘wall of fame’next to the former senior class’s T-squares. My two favorite quotes on the T-square are: “Your excitement is contagious. Thanks for being a rad teacher” from Jamie, and “Best wake-up call ever. Thank you for not being a tow truck company” from Mike.