Ride On, Rider

David Rider
Photo credit:  Kate McDowell

David Rider Photo credit: Kate McDowell

Adelyne Collin, Writer

After 30 years of teaching at Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans, David Rider’s career of education concludes, and the next chapter of his life begins. Rider, a social studies teacher, has been a part of the BFA community since the early 1990’s teaching primarily AP U.S. History and AP Government. Over the course of Rider’s career and lifelong journey, becoming a teacher wasn’t his original plan.  

According to Rider, when he was fresh out of college, graduating with a degree in history, his goal was to become a member of the government. After the struggle to find a job, Rider made the decision to go back to college to get a teaching degree as well.

“It seemed like a nice fit, so that’s when I decided to teach,” Rider said. 

Rider began his teaching career at South Burlington High School.  At SBHS, Rider student-taught for the fall semester, but in the spring semester, the school had a temporary opening.  At 21-years-old, Rider went from student teaching to teaching in a matter of a year.  Later on, in 1981, this temporary position came to a close, and Rider had difficulty finding another job.

“America was at its worst economic times since the Great Depression to get a job,” Rider said. 

After his year at South Burlington High School, Rider then spent the following six years promoting education and literature to children in central Vermont. 

“I got a job in education teaching children whose parents are immigrant farm workers. That was in central Vermont; I lived in Middlebury. I did a lot of literacy building and homeschool coordination. I would drive into dairy farm barnyards, find the crappiest old trailer where the [immigrants were], and I would go in with armfuls of books, and I would promote literacy and reading activities for little kids who were growing up in abject poverty whose own parents might not feel comfortable about their own reading skills. [They] didn’t have any books in their home, so I would promote the idea that the best thing you can do is just to read with your preschoolers even if you’re not a great reader; just show excitement and joy about literature, and it’s going to help your kid in the long run,” Rider said. 

Afterwards, Rider was hired by BFA and has been here ever since. In a grand total of 37 years spent teaching, Rider has created many memories. According to Rider, one of the best memories, however, is helping students achieve. 

In response to the question, what’s a happy memory that you have gained at BFA, Rider said “The joy and pride in seeing students grow over time.  When kids come into the classroom-AP U.S History classroom particularly-some of them just get their butts kicked. The reading is difficult, the writing is difficult [and] you can kind of see in their eyes like ‘Oh, am I in the right place?’ A little bit of self-doubt in there maybe. You just work with them, and over time they get better, they get stronger, they get more confident, [and] seeing student growth is the most amazing, rewarding and exciting thing about teaching. Every teacher gets excited to see that; it’s a privilege [and an] honour to see this growth over time.”

In addition, students and Rider (before COVID-19) were able to travel. Rider and students would go as far as Boston or New York City for history trips. According to Rider, these trips are heavily regarded as happy memories made while teaching at BFA.

“Those were really fun activities because leading kids on a history walking tour of New York City is a lot more exciting than having them read about it in a book or look at a PowerPoint,” Rider said.

Being an AP teacher, Rider was given the opportunity to travel to AP scoring sites to grade students’ AP U.S History/AP Government tests among other teachers from around the world. “I was really grateful to be part of the AP U.S History reading. I was able to develop great relationships with other teachers from all over the world,” Rider said. 

With his career in teaching coming to a close, Rider looks forward to his retirement. Rider has been active in a variety of volunteer work and plans to continue this during his retirement.

“I’ve always been someone who volunteers a lot in the community…I volunteer for the hospital.  I volunteer for Local Motion, which is a bicycle advocacy group. I’m also [on] the board for the Friends for A-Dog Foundation, which is a non-profit arts group in Burlington, and we do hip-hop and skateboard and dance programming for underserved youth in Burlington. I’m looking forward to doing that volunteer work,” Rider said.

Alongside Rider’s community service, he will have more opportunities to do the activities he enjoys, while also being able to stay home more. When asked what plans he has for his future, Rider said, “I love to garden.  I love to cook.  I love to travel.  I love to ride my bike.  I love to go hiking.  I love to be out on the lake.  I think I’ll be able to fill my hours up. I’m also grateful that my wife will be continuing to work. But [I know] that after a long day at work, my wife will be able to come into our home, and I’ll have dinner ready and a glass of wine. I’ll be able to emerge as a different type of team player in my marriage. As a retired person, I’ll have more time to do some of those things around the house, so that feels really good, moving into a new teamwork relationship with my wife,” Rider said. 

Teaching has presented its challenges, especially in the past two school years. All teachers have been affected by the pandemic in different ways, and for Rider, it brought a lot of uncertainty in teaching AP content with the hybrid schedule. 

“The pandemic was-it just kicked my butt in that regard because none of us had a road map, none of us knew what we were doing, and I felt really scattered, and that’s when a lot of self-doubt came in like am I really being an effective teacher here? Is this an effective use of our time?’ But we were all kind of making it up as we went along from March 2020 to now…[The pandemic] was a very unusual way to end my career, 90% was normal and the last 10% has been really really difficult,” Rider said. 

According to Rider, a large takeaway, for himself in particular, from the past two school years is to not be too hard on yourself. The most crucial life lesson Rider learned at BFA was from teaching during this pandemic. 

In response to what’s a life lesson you have learned at BFA that you would like to pass on, Rider said, “Don’t listen too much to the voice of self-criticism because that can lead to self-doubt. I was my own worst critic in a lot of ways. I would think that ‘this class bombed,’ and the feedback I get from students would be really different. I guess if I could do a do-over it would not be as critical of myself as I’ve been because it’s of course important to assess yourself and try to improve yourself and do better, but when your starting point is just self-criticism, that can spiral down pretty quickly. [I should] not to compare myself to other people, have faith in my own vision for education, have confidence in my voice [and] my choices.”

Rider’s time spent at BFA has been rewarding. While it is time for Rider to continue onto his next journey in life, BFA will never forget him. Ride on, Rider.