It was more than a retirement celebration for one longtime high school teacher who was honored Wednesday as the 2012 Outstanding Educator of the Year in the Washington School District.
Rick Schwentker, who has taught physics and math at Washington High School for the past 22 years, received the WINGS Foundation Award for Educational Excellence during the district’s annual end-of-the-year program.
Schwentker also was one of nine retiring staff members recognized during the program.
The outstanding educator award presentation is one of the highlights of the assembly which brings together all teachers and staff in the school district. More than 600 employees attended the program, which was held at the C.J. Burger Fine Arts Center at the high school.
The award is presented annually by the WINGS Foundation to recognize longtime and exceptional service in the school district. This is the 20th year for the award.
Former Superintendent Dr. Jerry Chambers made the presentation.
Schwentker, who has taught for over 33 years, told The Missourian the award was completely unexpected and an honor. He also said he shares the award with the entire teaching staff in the district because he knows how hard everyone works.
“I really want to thank my wife and family for being so understanding for all of the hours I’ve spent at the school,” he said.
Principal Dr. Frank Wood said the light was always on in Schwentker’s classroom long after the final school bell rang because he was so committed to helping his students succeed.
In presenting the award, Chambers described Schwentker as a “transformational” member of the school staff and said his dedication to the district would be hard to match.
“While demanding that students learn and perform, this schoolmaster does so in a nurturing way,” Chambers said. “This teacher comes before school and stays after to help students meet the requirements of the challenging course work . . . he is patient and slow to anger, creating a positive learning environment which reaches students of all abilities and from all backgrounds.”
Chambers also noted that former students often send notes of thanks to Schwentker, describing his classes as “interesting, exciting and challenging.”
In addition to teaching, Schwentker has served as the TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science) competition sponsor since 1992 and the group has placed in meets every year. He also has chaired the Academic Boosters Club many years.
“This remarkable teacher has been involved for decades with endless fundraisers so that 20 observatories can be sustained which expanded into a community astronomy club . . . he has hosted numerous stargazing sessions for students and community members,” Chambers said.
Loves to Teach
Schwentker graduated from New Haven High School in 1969 and East Central College in 1971. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1973 from the University of Missouri-Rolla and later a master’s degree in education from Maryville University. He holds lifetime certificates in physics and math.
Schwentker told The Missourian he gets a lot of gratification from helping kids learn and succeed, and loves to hear what his former students are doing. He said anyone thinking about a career in education should be aware of the long hours, but the feedback from students more than makes up for that. He also said teachers must continually challenge and push themselves.
“I’ve had wonderful experiences here and really enjoyed the staff I worked with and students I’ve taught. It’s been a wonderful career,” he said.
Asked about his plans for retirement, Schwentker said he first needed to finish a letter of recommendation for one of his students and had projects at his house near Dutzow to complete. But he doesn’t plan to stop learning or educating others. Long-term his goal is to develop computer-based programs to help teach science and math.
“I don’t want my talent and knowledge to go to waste and over the years I have said many times how nice it would be to have more computer programs to help in the classroom,” he said.
Schwentker received a plaque and a $1,000 check provided by The Missourian and Chambers, who assisted in the creation of WINGS.
Schwentker and his wife Judy, a librarian at Washington West and Campbellton elementary schools, have two children.
The 2012 recipient of the Wings Foundation’s award for education excellence is Rick Schwentker, a physics and math teacher at Washington High School.
Schwentker was honored Wednesday at the Washington School District’s annual end of the year program.
Past recipients of the award, also known as the outstanding teacher of the year award, are as follows:
1993 — Marie Spires.
1994 — Janet Kleinheider.
1995 — Bob Barbarick.
1996 — Connie Lutz.
1997 — Jim Ogle.
1998 — Marcia Meyer.
1999 — Debbie Maczuk.
2000 — Nancy Balven.
2001 — Nettie Grimes.
2002 — Karen Dawson.
2003 — Carol Vedder.
2004 — Lori Peirick.
2005 — Karen Houchins.
2006 — Mary Kipp.
2007 — Joan Obermark.
2008 — Joyce Brown.
2009 — Wynn Scheer.
2010 — Tom Haas.
2011 — Connie Groff.