Ripon College educator expands her influence by training teachers of the future

Director of Teacher Education Jean Rigden focuses her energy on building future teachers that, in turn, expand the horizons of future generations of students. Her classrooms are enriched with her first-hand experiences with kindergarten through undergraduate education.

For nine years, Rigden taught in various Wisconsin school districts. She was then a K-12 Principal at Princeton Public Schools in Princeton, Wisconsin, for eight years. For a decade, Rigden has been teaching at Ripon College, and this past academic year she was awarded the May Bumby Severy, Class of 1908, Award for excellence in teaching.

With more than 27 years spent educating the public, Rigden devotes her time teaching future educators how to teach. “It is my duty to help students learn, whether it’s as their math teacher, their principal or as the teacher of their future teachers,” she says.

Student learning is at the center of Rigden’s philosophy and decision-making as an educator, and she feels it is her duty to help them learn.

“Teachers need to develop strong relationships with their students to help them succeed. These relationships provide the foundation for the students’ development of the skills and dispositions necessary to be successful members of our democratic society,” she says.

The student teaching process at Ripon College requires a sequence of classes on a variety of topics, ranging from the history of public schools to the importance of diversity. Methods classes enrich students with pedagogy and allow them to teach in front of peers. Education students also develop specialties for the areas and grade levels they wish to teach.

Finally, future educators must have at least 100 hours of classroom time observing and teaching before they actually student teach. Department professors observe student teaching lessons and provide feedback.

“As a country we need to create an environment where teachers are valued and celebrated for the hard work that they do. We need to honor the teaching profession as a profession and provide the support necessary to create public schools that can work for all of our children,” says Rigden.

She believes quality teachers should be knowledgeable, encouraging, passionate, and able to positively impact their classrooms and communities and reflect upon their own teaching as they continue to develop skills.

“First and foremost, quality teachers foster excellence in education,” Rigden says. “I have met students as prospectives; I have had them in my classes; observed them teaching during their student teaching semester, and finally walk across the stage at graduation,” she says. “But the most incredible feeling is hearing that they have been hired as a teacher.

“To know that I have helped shape the life of a future educator is by far the most rewarding experience that I have had in my career as an educator. As a teacher educator, I have an even larger reach since the future teachers I work with will have an impact on hundreds of students throughout their careers. I am truly lucky to be able to do the work I do each day.”

Dakota Marlega ’21
Waupaca, Wisconsin

(Photo: Jean Rigden, left, reviews lesson plans with former student-teacher Abby Hilker ’18.)


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