Life lessons derived from teaching, problem solving, encouraging competition

School – necessary and very beneficial indeed, we can all attest to that. But by the end of a long school week, nearly everyone is exhausted and ready for the weekend, and most of us make it pretty obvious with our demeanor. However, for algebra II teacher and football coach Matthew Rice, that quality isn’t apparent. Everyone has their bad days, but Rice minimizes those days as much as possible, and doing what he loves helps him to be successful in that.

What is it about Rice’s job that he loves so much? A lot of things, especially the fact that every aspect of teaching and coaching relates back to helping his students in their lives and futures.

“There’s a life lesson in pretty much everything,” Rice said. “From whether or not you can problem solve and you can take that out of the classroom and use that in a real life setting, and a lot of the hard work and dedication that’s involved in our athletic programs, that all translates into real life and students [who] embrace that can be successful throughout their lives.”

Rice finds gratification in teaching the students who don’t embrace things such as math, and helping them to improve their abilities.

“A lot of people don’t like math and there are a lot of people that come through my class that could care less if they ever had to do it again”, Rice said. “And [the goal is] not that they’ll [gain] a great appreciation for math like I have, but [that] they’ll like it more than when they came in, and that they’ll understand a little bit more.”

While most would find it frustrating to teach students something that many of them don’t particularly want to learn or use in their lives, Rice utilizes his love for math to lend a helping hand.

“I recognize the fact that not a lot of people are going to use some of the math that they have to learn throughout the rest of their lives,” Rice said. “But it’s the fact that I like it so much that they learn it.”

Rice’s passion for math is apparent in his teaching and that drive engages his students, keeping them focused on learning.

“I like higher level math, just because it kind of feeds who I am as a person,” Rice said. “I love teaching the challenging math because I think the kids see a lot of enthusiasm in the fact that I like it, and so that kind of rubs off on them.”

It does in fact rub off on them, according to one of his students, sophomore Brittany Thurstin.

“He has an upbeat rhythm that keeps you tuned into what he’s teaching,” Thurstin said. “He’s really good at explaining everything and asking us questions, and opening discussions. He goes around checking everyone’s work and will help you individually right there.”

In coaching football, Rice embraces the competitive nature of sports and the motivation to be number one.

“[I like] the whole idea of playoffs and striving to be excellent, and trying to be the best at what you’re doing.” Rice said. “[In highschool], you can continue playing until you get beat. It’s the competition, and it’s really rewarding to be able to strive for that.”

Rice not only strives for his students to be successful on the field and in the classroom, he tries to be the best he can be as well.

“The two things that exceed Coach Rice’s coaching ability are being a good man and a great teacher.” Senior football player Ryan Way said.

Every day, Rice keeps in mind the true purpose of his job, aside from solely teaching math and coaching football – to assist his students in being successful in life.

“I feel like I can affect a lot of people by teaching them something that they don’t feel like they’re good at,” Rice said.

So what is the main aspect of his job that keeps Rice going, from the early morning tutorials at school, to afternoon football practices, to the late nights grading his students’ papers?

“It’s that realization that [my students] can do it,” Rice said. “When I have kids that go ‘Man, I get it, I finally get it!’, that’s the incentive for me to keep doing my job. Days like that it’s like ‘Yeah, I’m doing the right thing, I’m right where I’m supposed to be’.”