Teacher putting down the chalk after 34 years
Hayden — After three decades of teaching English and social studies to Hayden’s seventh- and eighth-graders, Lucy Rickman is saying goodbye. The much-loved teacher is retiring this month.
Rickman has been in the Hayden school system since her first day of teaching in 1966. She never thought once about changing careers or had the desire to move into administration she just wanted to be with the children.
“I always wanted to be here,” Rickman said, looking around her classroom. “Kids need a constant and I’m a real constant.”
Rickman and her husband, Bryan, have lived in the community their entire adult lives and she believes sticking to a single school system was one of the smartest things she could have done.
“Most teachers don’t get to see their students as productive adults. It’s a good feeling,” she said.
Rickman believes she’s an asset to her students today because of her close bond with the town for so many years.
“I’m on my second generation of students now. I teach the children of kids I taught years ago. It’s such a nice thing; a great tie to the community and a living history book for kids about their parents and what their parents were like at the same age,” she said. “Kids that were once my students are now my adult friends. I’ve been so fortunate to live in this community for so long.”
Things have changed since Rickman began teaching her first English class. She said she’s seen her students go from active participants in the classroom and community to children who would prefer to sit on the sidelines.
“We’ve become a spectator society and I think TV is a big part of it,” Rickman said. “It seems that kids don’t make things happen any more. They make bad choices and there are no consequences. No one is taking responsibility. We need to help our children have more self-pride.”
Rickman said she was doing her best work about 10 to 15 years ago.
“Kids were so much more receptive then and it was easier to keep the momentum up. Public education is changing everywhere. For the first time, since Columbine we lock the outside door just outside of my classroom. It’s scary,” Rickman said. “We’ve mellowed education down to mediocrity. It’s now lukewarm instead of fired up. I think we’ve taken away the hurdles and now the kids have nothing to go for, it’s really disappointing. But, we do have some really smart and bright kids here. We just need to keep striving to better ourselves.”
Aside from her frustration in the way students participate in the school system over the last few years, Rickman said her experience in the world of teaching has been positive overall.
“I really don’t remember anything bad about teaching,” she said. “I mostly enjoyed my relationships with the kids and the other teachers. Teachers have a lot of support for each other. And, the kids have a great sense of humor.”
Rickman’s favorite subject to teach is Colorado history, something she believes is key in the educational process.
“They need to know what happened here and that the things that are happening now in Colorado and around the world aren’t new; history repeats itself,” Rickman said.
Hayden Middle School Principal Colleen Poole said that Rickman will be sorely missed next fall.
“I have only worked with Lucy for a small portion of her career, however during the last six years, I have witnessed a dedicated teacher who is committed to the educational success of her students,” Poole said. “She has been a creative force in our school and has enriched the curriculum with her years of experience and knowledge. All of us will miss her. Her creative knowledge and sense of humor that she brought to the school will be difficult to replace.”
But all of Rickman’s time hasn’t been spent inside the classroom. Volunteering in the community is something that comes naturally to the teacher.
Devoting time to the West Routt Rural Library Board and the West Routt Rural Health Council will keep Rickman busy long after the last bell has rung.
“I’ll keep volunteering but I don’t have any plans to work at this point. I’ve never been able to stay home and clean my closets,” she said. “We plan to take a vacation next fall to New England to see the fall colors. In my entire marriage, I’ve never taken a vacation in the fall so this should be great.”
Rickman and her husband never had children of their own, but she doesn’t look at it that way.
“I never felt necessary to have my own children because I’ve always had my kids at school. That’s how I’ve looked at it my whole life,” she said. “It will be really hard to say goodbye.”
But, at 3:20 p.m. on May 25 the students in Mrs. Rickman’s eighth grade class will file out the door for summer vacation, and the teacher will turn out the lights one last time and follow them.
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