Teaching like a sailor
College of Education alumnus Peter Richey talks about the journey from the U.S. Navy to Illinois State.
Looking back at the last 17 years, my life has taken many turns. I served in the U.S. Navy for six years, stationed on a frigate out of San Diego and a Naval Air Station outside Philadelphia.
Ironically, I was a bit rudderless before joining the Navy. I had spent an unsuccessful year at Auburn University, mainly because I was not connected and did not have direction.
I am rewarded for my decision to choose Illinois State University more and more with every passing year. It is amazing how little things change your life in huge ways. Within 24 hours of stepping foot on campus, I had an impromptu talk with Professor Douglas Hatch about the middle-level program, and I found an incredible advisor in Maureen Smith. These two people continue to impact my direction in education.
In addition, Judy Curtis at Veterans and Military Services and her staff cannot get enough credit. I did not realize how lucky I was to have this resource. Through their guidance, I maximized the bills and grants earned to cover the costs of a college tuition. I earned two graduate degrees and have put additional funds toward furthering my education. I aspire to complete a doctorate one day, too.
My first class at Illinois State was with Professor Amee Adkins (now the college’s senior associate dean). That would lead to an invaluable student worker position in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations, and I learned a lot from my supervisor, Linda Wall. These people all had a hand in my transition from sailor to civilian.
My transition from sailor to teacher was not without challenges. I had a bit of culture shock going from the camaraderie of the military to a college campus with “kids” who were three to five years younger than me. At times, it was hard to relate. However, I soon made lifelong connections with fellow veterans who were pursuing degrees in education. I was also privileged to sit next to my future wife in one of my courses. Kristin ’08, an incredible teacher, and I are now raising our two future Redbirds, Brayden and Olive.
I have brought many experiences from the military and Illinois State into my math classroom. I am honored to have empowered and led my colleagues in several committees and as a department chair. With my students, I place an emphasis on explaining and instilling pride in our nation and recognizing those who protect our freedoms. In 2009, I sought an opportunity to give back to fellow veterans by creating my school’s first Veterans Day assembly,which includes a formal program. The day provides students with a greater level of understanding and respect for these individuals. I am humbled to be able to spearhead this annual event that connects these two important aspects of my life.
When I arrived at Illinois State, I expected to treat college as another station, simply completing my work and “moving on” to the next part of the journey. Illinois State University became so much more than that. The pride I reserve for the phrase “I am a Veteran” is rivaled only by “I am a Redbird!”