Meet the Teach: Michael Rickman
Meet the Teach: Michael Rickman

Michael "Mikey" Rickman teaches second grade at The Prep at St. Andrew's Schools (SAS). Mr. Rickman has been teaching for 11 years and has been at The Prep for two. Prior to joining SAS, Mr. Rickman an educational interpreter for the deaf at Waimalu Elementary School and in the Newton Public School District and Wilmington Public School District in Massachusetts. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Mr. Rickman earned his bachelor's in Sign Language Interpreting and American Sign Language Deaf Studies from Maryville College, his master's in Deaf Education from University of Tennessee and his master's in Elementary Education K-6 from Hawai'i Pacific University.

How did you get into teaching? What made you want to pursue the career?

"I have always loved teaching. Growing up, I loved going to school and even after my sports practices or games I would come home and play school! I always asked for school supplies on my Christmas list and my birthdays. I had exceptional teachers who inspired me, made me curious about the world around me, and taught me so much about myself and others. All of their motivation and encouragement, coupled with my parents' encouragement, allowed me to be the first college student in my entire extended family!"

What is your favorite part about teaching?

"Gosh, there are so many to name. I think a couple of my favorite parts are those ʻaha!' moments (both from the kiddos and myself) and the pure love of learning. I truly love to see a child get something new or get excited about a subject or topic. It is truly inspiring and makes all of the stress of teaching and the world around me go away. Knowing that I can help show the students I teach all the beauty in the world is priceless. Also, seeing the pure excitement in their face when they love learning about something is magical. These moments make my job the best job in the world! I hope that I can always teach my students to be kind, self-confident, life-long learners."

What do you currently teach? What have you previously taught?

"Second grade at The Prep. Prior to this, I worked as a sign language interpreter in third grade for a year at Waimalu Elementary and in grades one through four in Wilmington, Massachusetts for two students, and then in grades second through fifth for two other children in Newton, Massachusetts."

What is a current goal and/or project you are working on?

"A few goals I am working on both personally and professionally are to remember self-care, leadership opportunities and to celebrate the small victories in the classroom. Personally, self-care is essential and often forgotten by many. In regard to leadership, I want to continue to build my tool belt with critical skills that will eventually lead me to a leadership role. In the classroom, I am challenging myself to take steps back to look at the bigger picture. Often as educators, we focus too much on point A to B or the pressure of testing and getting a child to a specific end result. It is crucial to celebrate small gains and victories. Each child needs to do this to help build confidence. As an educator, I try to push each student to the best that he or she can be and by celebrating both the small and large gains, I'm motivated to be a better teacher daily."

What is the best part about teaching at The Prep?

"I love the sense of community and the history of the school. It is crucial to learn about where you are from to help you in where you are going. The history here is embedded in the day-to-day and it's felt by all. Also, the family support is such a blessing."

Who or what inspires you?

"One of my first major inspirations was my Grammy! I remember learning so much from her when she used to drive the Head Start bus. I would meet all the amazing kiddos she would pick up throughout the community. Then, she began her work at the School for the Deaf and I began learning sign language and all about the Deaf community through her work. She was a single parent most of her life and continues to be one of the strongest women I know. She did not come from much, but she gives so much for others and enriches everyone's life around her.

"I am also inspired by those who live, laugh and love to the fullest. Kindness and love inspire me to be better daily. It is hard at times, but I try to look for the beautiful moments around me whether it be family, friends, plants, animals, the rain or sunshine. Whether it is where we are or who we surround ourselves with – these moments inspire me and rejuvenate me to do as much as I can in this world."

What is the best advice someone has given to you? Who was that person?

"Always be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what battles he or she may be facing. This advice came from my parents who always taught me to love everyone no matter where they come from or what they look like.

What is your wish for your students?

"My wish for my students is that have a life-long love of learning and are kind. I want the students I work with to always believe in themselves and try to do good in the world. We all have passions and things that inspire us and if we can help kids understand that and give them tools to know what to do when they realize that passion – that is a beautiful thing."

What is one interesting thing people may not know about you?

"I mean, just one, come on! I have only burped one time in my entire life. I have a twin sister named Mandi, who lives in Nashville. I won a gold medal in softball at the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany in 2010."

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

"I love to play and watch sports. I currently play flag football, kickball (and am commissioner of the league), basketball and tennis. Traveling is one of my main passions. I have been to 47 states and want to check off all 50. I would love to visit all seven continents. I love all kinds of music and a great adventure!"

Tell us about your family.

"Currently, I am single, and my family includes chosen family and friends dating all the way back from kindergarten! I have a great family – they all mainly live back in East Tennessee (Knoxville, Nashville and Bristol). I have no pets unless you count my many guppies in J-102!"