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Howard: Youve got to bring the passion.
Gainesville High School teacher Rick Howard teaches his history class about the origins of World War II. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Rick Howard | Gainesville High

The coach-turned-teacher brings the educational hammer down on his students. And they are the receptive nails.

He’s a passionate educator — with a hammer on his desk — who reaches his high school history classes.

“Where (teaching) started off as a backup to coaching full time, now I consider myself a full-time teacher and a part-time coach,” Rick Howard said.

He has worked as an Advanced Placement history teacher at Gainesville High since 2004 and has coached soccer for 21 years, finding ways to connect with his students.

“One of the knocks on history is that it’s boring,” he said. “So you have to make it interesting. You have to tie it to their lives. You’ve got to link it to what they know.”

Why did you choose teaching?
“I played soccer in college and I wanted to stick with coaching soccer. That was the thing: I wanted to coach since I was in seventh grade. So, in talking about it, I was very interested in history, so I decided to pursue a degree in education thinking I could coach in high school for a year or two and then find a college. That was 20 something years ago. ... As I taught more I came to love it more. That, with my love of history and things like that, really kept me in the classroom and kept me going.”

“To find the best way to teach every single student on every single topic — to find out more. I’m big on a lot of research. I’m always reading articles on teaching history and reading a lot about history. I don’t want to call it an adventure, but that’s what it is — how can I make this better the next time I teach this ... that’s kind of the motivation — to find the best way to teach each individual kid. To make it interesting, informative and to get them to retain it.”

Most memorable teaching moment
“It’s more of a collection of moments, a collection of things. I’m the sum of the work of a lot of different teachers and a lot of influence by students. What I mean by that is I can think back to those ah-ha moments where I read an article or saw what another teacher was doing or I was talking to a student and they said, ‘Well, you should do this to help me better.’ Whereas one doesn’t stand out, it’s more of a collection of those ah-ha moments.”

Advice for other teachers
“You’ve got to bring the passion. You’ve got to be willing to approach your topic very passionately. You have to have a lot of love for the topic, and you have to have a lot of love for the kids and truly want to see them succeed. You can’t approach it like ‘I’m the expert and you don’t know anything.’ You have to be open and listen to them because they’ll give you new insights. You can’t be in the ivory tower, and you also can’t sit there and say, ‘I’m going to present this to you and it’s your job to learn it.’ You’ve got to bring the passion and be willing to work, because education is something you have to work on a daily basis.”