March 28, 2019
By David Nordby The Brillion News
BRILLION – Walking into Ryan Peterson’s classroom will bring back flashbacks to high school science class. It’s obvious what happens in the room with science posters everywhere, lab stations, and like any good science teacher, sophisticated chaos.
Peterson is spirited in conversation. He says he’s like that in front of students, too.
“I would say that I’m high energy. I’m in your face, sort of. A little crazy. My room is very distracting to be in because I have stuff everywhere. When you walk in, you can tell stuff happens here,” Peterson says.
This weekend, he will be honored with the Herb Kohl Foundation Teacher Fellowship Award as one of a select group of teachers from around Wisconsin.
Peterson is in his 16th school year teaching in Brillion. His wife, Jessica, also teaches science in the district and joined him after she finished her degree.
“I had drawn a circle on the map … Brillion was just outside the circle of acceptable,” Peterson said.
Peterson went to Neenah High School and earned his undergraduate degree from UW-Stevens Point. His supervisor from Point was a friend to then-Brillion principal Paul Nistler.
Science, like other subjects he says, will always have some students who are more passionate about the content than others. In his first 10 years, the majority of Peterson’s students were from elective courses.
“A lot of those kids will learn no matter how you do it,” Peterson said.
Now, he teaches most of the high school after internal changes in the school and changes from the state.
“I’ve really had to learn different ways to think about that,” Peterson said.
That was when applying critical thinking skills became more important to his teaching.
“Help them learn how to think about problems and if they don’t learn necessarily all the science content, that might not be the end of the world,” Peterson said.
Each day, he begins his classes by conversations with students about often non-science related things.
“I try to waste the first few minutes of every class, and I’m not wasting it. I’m trying to build a relationship with my kids and that pays dividends down the road,” Peterson said.
Please see the complete feature in the March 28, 2019 edition of The Brillion News.