Topnotch Teachers

February Top Notch Teacher

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- As schools push students to perform well in subjects like math and reading, history can get put on the back burner.

But one Black River Falls social studies teacher is making sure his students not only learn about the past, but realize its importance.

When it comes to favorite subjects, social studies isn't the most popular.


"I don't like history, I've never liked history, especially politics. My friends would talk about it and I would just zone out," said student Alexandria Turner.

"Honestly I hate history, I thought it was going to be pretty boring," said student Kristin Getter.

Those opinions are no secret to Mr. Rykken. He's been teaching history and politics for the past 32 years, 21 have been at Black River Falls High School.

"Getting them involved is always a challenge because they see it as something that's for adults, not for kids, so we really work hard on that," said Mr. Rykken.

That hard work is paying off. Both Kristen and Alex have changed their opinions since taking Mr. Rykken's required American Politics class.

"Rykken like brings a lot of current events into the class, and show's how it directly relates. It's kind of interesting how, the revolution that we are learning about, directly relates to what they are doing in Egypt," said Getter.

"This is my favorite class of the day, I look forward to coming here everyday. It's just the way that he changes it up. He's been doing this for so many years, he knows what he's doing and he knows what gets our attention," said Turner.

Alex is a member of the Black River Falls Student Senate. She's one of 20 elected senators that act as the voice of students. Some of their biggest achievements have been starting a recycling program and addressing racial issues within the school.

It was Mr. Rykken who got the program started. "I try to incorporate as much authentic politics into that as I can."

And it's that true to life approach that has students excited to learn about the topics they once considered a bore.

"He teaches, I think he teaches AP History, I'm going to be taking that next year, and I'm really looking forward to it," said Turner.

Mr. Rykken's impact on students doesn't stop in the classroom. He's also been teaching work ethic and perseverance as a track and cross country coach for 32 years.

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