FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A pair of popular and beloved Carroll High School teachers is retiring at the end of the school year. Cindy Raker and Rick Norton have a combined 76 years at Carroll, and both say they’ll miss their students the most.
RICK NORTON – ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AND BUILDING TRADES TEACHER FOR 36 YEARS
Rick Norton teaches advanced manufacturing and building trades at Carroll High School, and is certified in Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the school’s dual credit pre-engineering program. The beloved teacher is retiring after 36 years in the classroom.
“I never really looked at it as something I would stop doing, so the biggest adjustment has been looking at things and saying ‘wow, I’m not gonna do that anymore, I won’t need that anymore.’ So that’s really been the biggest adjustment, realizing that it does come to an end,” he said. “Top to bottom, I really enjoyed coming here and I know I’ll miss that.”
Throughout his time at Carroll, Norton believes his connection with students has always gone past the curriculum. And that has always been by design. One example is his self-created ‘Question of the Day’ in which he explores different, sometimes deep, topics with his students like integrity, drugs, and white lies. Over the year, a lot of his students have said the Question of the Day was their favorite part of his class.
“It really connects with, I think, trying to get ready for what they’re about to be exposed to, and that’s the real world, but now it’s going to be on their own. And I try to bring that into my curriculum, where I don’t look at it as just teaching a curriculum, but how it this going to impact your future?”
Norton wants his students to walk away from his classroom with more knowledge and understanding of the world than when they walked in. He believes his Question of the Day, and additional life lessons he teaches, helps with that.
“You can tell in a way they are starving for a deeper knowledge, I think we take it for granted that they just know, and in a lot of cases they don’t. So that is what pushes me. I think, really to be successful, I’m going ‘you got to know this stuff.’“
His students enjoy the manufacturing and building trades classes, and say the extra lessons from Mr. Norton make a difference in their lives.
“He teaches us certain skills, how to make better decisions, how to stay away from certain bad stuff and what not, how it can affect us,” said senior Josh Wray, who took four of Norton’s classes throughout his high school career.
Jake Disdelrith, also a senior, was in Mr. Norton’s class three of his 4 years at Carroll. He says Mr. Norton helped him a lot through high school.
“Any time I needed advice or help on something, he’s always been there, and he gets you thinking what you want to do outside high school for your future,” he said, adding that Mr. Norton helped them hatch a “35 year plan” in which the students were encouraged to think about where they’d like to be in life by the age of 35.
Mr. Norton also challenges his students on how they’ll apply what they learn in his classroom to the real world experiences they’ll face in life.
“If you don’t see where something I’m teaching is going to be used in the future, ask me. I think that’s a question that should be asked by every teacher because if a teacher cannot validate where what they are teaching is going to be used in the future, I don’t know how you would keep teaching.”
He also teaches his students the importance of giving back. For 20 years, he’s led an outreach program in which his students have raised $5,000 to $6,000 a year to sponsor water wells that are dug in third world countries.
“One of my mottos is ‘if you’ve been blessed with more, more is expected,’ so I’m trying to get them to see that it’s more than all about them, what can you do to make things better in general, overall,” Norton said.
As he heads toward retirement, Mr. Norton says he wants his students to always remember to make things better than they were before, and make a difference in the world.
Along with teaching, Mr. Norton is also an entrepreneur, and plans to stay busy in retirement with other projects.
CINDY RAKER – AGRI-SCIENCE TEACHER FOR 40 YEARS
Cindy Raker was the first female agriculture teacher in the state of Indiana. She was hired at Carroll High School 40 years ago, and has been the Agri-Science teacher and an FFA (Future Farmers of America) advisor ever since. She helped build what has become a rich agricultural program at the school.
“I have students in my class that really love to come here and it’s not like a required course so they choose this course,” said Raker. “They learn a lot about animals in this one, I teach food science, introduction to agriculture class, I’ve taught just about everything in the program in 40 years.”
Being an agriculture teacher, Raker stays connected with some of her students all year long. She helps with summer projects, and in the classroom, she’s involved with career development where students learn about different career options. For FFA, she has a constant role at camps, conventions, and competitions, plus state and county fairs.
“It’s a family, and everybody down here, we kind of feel that same way,” she said. “I get invited to graduations, weddings, funerals unfortunately, and things with their families. I don’t know how many times I’ve been invited to dinner at somebody’s house. That just makes you part of the community,” she said.
Every year she pushes her students to grow and excel, putting in hard work every step of the way. Raker says the one-on-one interactions with her students, and especially those in FFA, is something she’ll miss the most.
“The two of us will sit down and help write a speech or work on a demonstration, and that’s where you get your closeness, by working with them,” said Raker. “I’m another responsible adult that they can look up to, and that’s what I like.”
Freshman Alicia DeWitt says Ms. Raker is someone she can turn to for advice, and she credits her ag teacher with pushing her outside her comfort zone.
“We had a public speaking contest, and I don’t do so great with that, but she pushed me into it and I placed first in my competition and now I’m going to State in June. If it wouldn’t have been for her I never would’ve done that, ever,” said DeWitt.
Senior Rhiannon Bear says Ms. Raker is more than a teacher – she’s a mother figure to many students.
“She’s always there for us after school, during school, anytime we need help she’s there. She’s an amazing FFA advisor,” said Bear. “In the classroom she’s amazing, she connects with the students, has them share stories about their own experiences and makes them interact in class so they learn better. She does so much for us.”
Sophomore Caleb White says Ms. Raker is his favorite teacher, and he’s sad to see her retire at the end of the year.
“I’m gonna have to go two years without her, and I was really looking forward to having her more,” he said. “She’s a teacher you can talk to and hang out with, if you wanted to spend time at school, hang out with Ms. Raker and you’ll have fun!”
Raker says she wants her students to know they can do anything they want with dedication and hard work. It’s a lesson she’ll never stop teaching.
Though Raker is saying goodbye to the classroom at the end of the year, she’ll stay involved in FFA and will continue to sell tickets at Carroll sporting events.