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Real World Learning Through Mentorship

Real World Learning Through Mentorship

What do you do when you’re a retired engineer who loves physics? If you're Richard Rigley, you volunteer in high school physics classes.

“I was in engineering for my whole career, but never lost my interest in math and physics,” Rigley said. After retiring from his job in Florida, Rigley and his wife moved back to Cincinnati to be near their children and grandchildren. While in Florida, Rigley spent time in classrooms, volunteering to help students with their schoolwork. After returning to Ohio, he knew he wanted to continue working with kids and reached out to Lakota East High School.

Three days a week, you can find Rigley volunteering in Dr. John Severns’ advanced placement (AP) physics classes. He is also available to help students with science and math during the NEXUS academic advisory bell that overlaps with his time at East.

Why? “I do it for the ‘clicks’ and the ‘ohs’,” Rigley explained. Oftentimes, when he asks a student to re-teach the process they learned in class, he can see the moment everything clicks into place for them - and then he gets an “oh” from them. When students tell him that AP or honors physics is difficult, he reminds them that they’re not alone. “(Physics) is hard for everybody. You have to work at it.”

Severns appreciates Rigley’s willingness to provide examples of real-world applications to his physics students. “Since I was a chemist for 11 years before entering the classroom,” Severns said. “I can provide real-world examples to my chemistry students quite easily. Dick brings the real-world (physics examples) to us and my kids are better for it.” Severns noted that his students appreciate Rigley’s comments and suggestions during labs. This is quite evident watching Rigley’s interactions with the students.

“I’m so excited to be in this class every day,” Tyler Breiner, a senior in Severns’ AP physics class, said. “The fact that I have an excellent teacher and someone who has real world experience in engineering is great.” Like Breiner, senior Sai Akshita Saidapet plans to study engineering in college. She also appreciates Rigley demonstrating how what she is learning can be applied in the real world. 

“It’s good to have additional insight into what we’re learning,” senior Alexis Lewis said.

Rigley has even created a Google Doc with resources that complement Severns’ lessons. “They focus on practical applications of topics we cover,” Severns said. “It allows kids to explore topics that interest them in more detail.” 

“These students are learning life skills that they’ll use from here on out,” Rigley said. “People learn through multiple paths: you see the teacher teach; you write it down; and then you re-read your notes. The best way to learn is to teach someone else.”

When asked about the biggest reward for Rigley, his response was instantaneous, “The kids teach me, too.”


  • real world learning