Back when this year’s graduating seniors were just about to become terrific two-year olds, I landed my first classroom teaching position in the Copper River School District. The first year of being responsible for a classroom is an eye-opening challenge, even for those energetic twenty-somethings right out of college. My first principal kept me focused on the opportunities rather than the challenges. The lessons he taught me way back in 1997 are still helpful today.
On one particularly challenging day that first year, my principal told me that experience is a valuable teacher. He said every year was new and different and offered me the opportunity to improve as an educator and a person. After twenty years, he said, “Some people have one year’s worth of experience twenty times, and nothing really changes.” And then, as he has done many times since, he passed along some wisdom I have never forgotten. He said, “But, those who are teachable will accumulate new experiences each year, eventually having twenty years worth of experience and improvement to draw upon.”
Since that time, I’ve had ups and downs with that same principal. Sometimes he came to my office to pick a fight, and sometimes I went to his for the same reason. Together we’ve been wrong, right, serious and silly. Against all odds, we’ve shared the anguish of helplessness and the awe of triumph. We share the same faith, and on many occasions, this principal steadied me by quoting from his morning reading of Scripture.
That principal is Mr Rice. In his wisdom, he has helped me and countless others learn from each year’s new experiences. Mr. Rice is an example of someone who takes each day’s experiences, learns from them, and then generously passes along life’s lessons to others. And now, eighteen years later, I find myself asking how to thank one who has kept me from stumbling so many times, picked me up when I did, and even tripped me a few times just to keep life interesting.
Student achievement has been Mr. Rice’s unrelenting focus in the CRSD for twenty years. His expectation has been that every student will learn. He expected a lot from his students and staff. He also expected a lot from parents and guardians and had the courage to say so.
Many young men and women have spent time reading after school because Mr. Rice expected them to. Countless students have made a good choice, because they knew Mr. Rice expected them too. Many teachers went the extra mile because Mr. Rice expected them to do their best for students. And because Mr. Rice would never settle for less, at least one Superintendent has remembered that the opportunities will always outweigh the challenges.
Though he’s retiring, his legacy will remain. We will expect nothing less than the best for and from our students. He’ll be missed, but the wisdom he has shared will be evident in Copper River School District for many years. As we continue to live up to his expectations and when the chips are down, I will recall his oft repeated parting words as he left my office, “Piece of cake, Michael. You can do this.”
And if you’re reading this Mr. Rice, since you won’t be around every day, please know when something goes wrong, I’ll blame you.
In addition to Mr. Rice, we have several other employees retiring or moving on. Some, like Laurie Coker, have been with the CRSD for many years. Others have been with the district only a short time, but are valued and appreciated for the contribution they have made. We are honoring these employees on our website at www.crsd.us. Please take time to view their profiles and send them an email before the end of the school year.
Laurie Coker – 22 years as a teacher with the CRSD
Josh Bullock – 1 year as a tech director with the CRSD
Alyson Flahive – 12 years as a teacher with the CRSD
Janice Hamilton – 1 year as a teacher with the CRSD
Lanette Phillips – 18 years at an administrative assistant with the CRSD
Gret Olson – 12 years as an administrative assistant with the CRSD
Barb Wallace – 5 years as a teacher with the CRSD
Len & Brenda Richison – 3-plus years teaching music in the CRSD