Learning to Be a Student, and Then a Teacher
During his time at OCC John Richards not only learned how to be a student, he learned how to be a friend, and eventually a husband. Richards met best friend, Lonnie during his first year, then met his future wife, Jamie , the following year. The trio graduated from OCC together in 2004.
Alumnus John Richards found a great deal while a student at OCC, including scholastic confidence, a career path, a best friend,and his wife.
Following his graduation from the Lawrenceville School, Richardsoriginally enrolled at Bucknell University. “I had a rocky start at Bucknell,” he recalls. “I chose to attend the college for all the wrong reasons. One of the main reasons that I chose it was because my sister had just graduated from there. When I arrived, I knew that I was not academically ready to balance the newfound freedom with the extremely heavy workload. After my first year, I was asked to take a year off to refocus and reevaluate my life choices.
“In the interim I decided to attend OCC and really enjoyed my experience there. I enjoyed it so much so that I chose to stay at OCC the following year as opposed to returning to Bucknell.”
At first though, said Richards, now 34, “I was very nervous to start at OCC. Since I had gone to boarding school for high school, I did not know anyone else in the area and was very apprehensive.”
However, he added, “because of the relaxed and social climate at OCC, I was very quickly able to make friends. In fact, I met one of my best friends, Lonnie Tegen, my first year. He has become a lifelong friend and I was one of the groomsmen in his wedding.
“During my second year at OCC, I ended up meeting my future wife, Jamie, as well. We have been together for 13 years now and we have two children together,” a three-year-old daughter, Amelia, and a five-month-old son, Johnny. The family resides in Brick Township, and Richards said he enjoys participating in adult sports leagues, going to the gym, fishing, and spending time with his wife and kids.
While at OCC, Richards noted, he learned proper study skills and found individuals willing to help him understand his auditory processing deficiency. “The staff at the Center for Academic Success was fantastic and worked extensively with me,” he explained. “Dr. Maureen Reustle in particular was extremely supportive of me. In fact, I went on to join the Honors Program and I asked her to be my advisor for my independent study project.
“I remember presenting my independent study project at the Beacon Scholar Conference, and I was awarded the Presenter of the Conference Award. I was really able to come out of my shell at OCC.”
As the Class of 2004 graduate pointed out, “Many classes and professors at OCC had a tremendous impact on my life. Two classes in particular stand out in my mind. I remember I took Child Psychology with Prof. David Wolfe (now Assemblyman) my first year. I really enjoyed the class and his teaching style. He encouraged me to look into education.
“My first education class was with Dr. Alfred Longo. He was also an amazing teacher and I knew then that education was the correct path for me.”
Richards also swam for the Vikings, to great success. He served as a team captain, qualified as an All-American, and was awarded the Pete Carroll Student Athlete of the Year Award.
“OCC is a fantastic place,” he reflected. “If you are unsure if college is for you or what you want to do with your life, Ocean County College is the perfect place for you. The college is filled with knowledgeable staff members that are eager to assist you.”
After earning his associate degree, Richards attended Kean Ocean. Through this program, he noted, “I was assigned to do my student teaching at Veterans Memorial Middle School. This student teaching experience led to a full-time job directly after graduation at Veterans,” in Brick, where he currently works as a sixth grade mathematics teacher.
Richards, who recently earned a Master’s degree from Georgian Court University, has applied for several grants on behalf of Veterans Memorial. “Ocean First Bank awarded me a local grant and the money was used to create a green space at the school,” he explained. “The students weed, plant, and maintain the garden.
“I was also a state finalist in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Unfortunately, we did not win the grand prize, but as a runner-up, we were awarded two brand-new Samsung Galaxy Tablets to use in the classroom.
“I will certainly be applying for more grants in the future,” he added. Thanks in great part to OCC, Richards discovered a highly rewarding career. “I enjoy facilitating the learning experience,” he stated. “There are times while I am teaching that you can actually see the precise moment when things start to make sense to the students. It is truly an awesome experience. There are many different teaching styles and different styles are effective in different settings. As a teacher, you must be fluid and receptive to the learning styles and interests of your students.
“Every day as a teacher presents a new challenge, as well as an opportunity to connect with the students,” concluded Richards.