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Back to School: NHS Grad Returns

Not so long ago, Julie Ritch roamed the hallways of Norwalk High School as a student.  The 2005 NHS graduate returned to her alma mater this September as a first year Algebra and Pre-Calculus teacher. “I was dying to come back to this community and teach. I loved my high school experience here.”

Born and raised in Norwalk, Ritch has also always loved math.  “I like that there is a definite answer.“  Ritch says she works hard to share her enthusiasm for the subject with her students.   “I keep telling them it’s not as hard as they think and that it takes practice. For me, teaching is about the ‘ah-ha’ moment,” she says.

Ritch is concerned about the effect of technology on students’ math skills.  “A lot of kids don’t know mental math.  Cell phone calculators have replaced mental math.”  She admits that she’s had to use flash cards to teach multiplication facts for ninth graders.

Student discipline, however, has not been an issue for Ritch.  “The students are respectful and attentive.”  Ritch explains that a couple of her classes, by coincidence, are largely only boys or only girls. “I really think this helps them to focus.  There is less distraction.”

Ritch considers herself a “type A” person.  “I like a lot of structure,” she says.  Color coded binders line the shelves and  precisely hung posters cover the wall.  “ I would plan every minute of the class if I could," says Ritch.  However, over the month she has learned that teaching requires flexibility.   “I’m learning you have to be able to go on the fly and embrace the teachable moment.”

Since she's not much older than her students, Ritch works at creating a student/teacher distinction. “I make sure to dress professionally.” Ritch also feels her height works to her advantage—she’s 6 feet 2 inches.

Over the past month, Ritch says she hasn’t had much of a life outside of school.  “I’m here until 9 p.m. most nights.” When she isn’t grading or writing lessons, Ritch is a NHS color guard instructor.

Ritch, who graduated from NHS in the top five percent of her class, attended Quinnipiac College where she received an undergraduate degree in math and a graduate degree in teaching.  Last year, she student-taught with NHS math teacher, Susan Weber. “My mom keeps asking me when is teaching going to start feeling like a job.  I tell her--hopefully never! I plan to be in this class room for the next 35 years.”

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