HAWARDEN—Trent Richards, 57, of Hawarden will end his teaching career May 24, the last day of the 2018-19 school year for the district.
Richards served the school district for 29 years. He said every student made an impact on his life.
“Teaching students has helped me to grow spiritually and to follow those biblical truths of extending forgiveness and grace toward each other,” Richards said. “I have had many exceptional students who have inspired me to be a better teacher — or to put it another way, I was their art coach who pushed them to try their very best and to take creative risks.”
By taking risks, whether they fail or succeed, Richards believes students achieve success in their own ability each time they work on an art project. Three years ago, and there after, Richards began the school year by telling students he has one great fear about teaching art.
“I wanted them to really learn the creative process, but the scary part is that you will have to learn how to take risks, trust yourself and fail in some of your art projects, so that you can learn from your failures to be creative,” Richards said. “Since that time, I have seen many more of my students take risks with their artwork, become more creative and learn from those mistakes.”
Richards said some of his greatest memories he will take with him in retirement pertain to working with “outstanding” professional co-workers and administrators who take the time to challenge and encouraged him to do his best each day.
“I learned a lot about myself as a person and how to be transparent or authentic with students,” he said. “As the saying goes — ‘students don’t really care how much you know, but how much you care for them’ That is a very accurate statement.”
Richards has taken that to heart several times throughout his career. He said students will tell the truth if you just ask. If he made a mistake with a student, he would do his best to try to make it right with that student and or the parents.
“I guess what I am saying is to become a good teacher, you must also be a good student who is willing to learn from the students you teach,” he said.
The biggest change Richards seen in his tenure is that nowadays generally both parents work to support the family. That was rare when Richards started teaching.
His dad, Tom Richards, inspired him to become an art teacher. Tom was a self-taught wildlife artist who drew and sculpt deer, elk, pronghorn, mountain sheep from many of his hunting experiences. Both Richards and his identical twin brother, Travis, became art teachers because of the passion their father exuded. Hunting and conservation is also something Richards enjoys.
Having grown up in Lead, SD, the national forest was his backyard and Richards spends most of his time after school hiking or hunting squirrel, cottontails, grouse, turkey and deer. That along with other hobbies like kayaking, gardening and fishing are all things Richards plans to do more of in retirement.
At the top of his list is spending time with his wife Lila, his adult children Jasmine, Jennifer and Kyle and his five grandchildren.
“We love them all so very much and treasure the time we can spend as extended families together,” Richards said. “God has truly blessed us with strong family bonds of love and devotion.”
“Each and everyone of you has the inner strength, talent and determination to achieve great personal success in life. Get involved with the many different activities available at school to see what you really are interested in, so that by the time you graduate you know what career path you want to pursue. The teachers will come along side you to help you succeed. Your part as a student is simply to be willing to learn from your successes and failures. To all the students I have taught over the years, I truly wish you the very best. I will miss you greatly!”
“Teach with compassion, empathy and grace — as many students are working through very difficult situations. The students have ‘taught me’ how to become a better teacher as I learned to understand and meet their needs in a variety of different ways.”