Twenty years ago, Glen Ritter decided to give up a lucrative position in the hospitality world and devote himself to teaching, and he hasn’t regretted it yet.
He’s taught science in public and private schools in North Carolina; worked for a prestigious boarding school in Maryland; and, more recently, served as an academic dean and, later, divisional head of schools at Pinghu Middle School, one of St. Mary’s six partner schools in China and one of the highest-ranking schools in Zhejiang Province.
Ritter and his wife, Lisa, decided to return to the States this summer to be closer to their adult children and, this fall they will begin new positions with St. Mary’s School. Ritter will teach high school biology and chemistry and middle school geometry, while Lisa will provide college and career counseling at the school.
“I’m excited about the direction of St. Mary’s and looking forward to being a classroom teacher, not an administrator,” Ritter said.
Last year, Ritter made his first visit to Southern Oregon to attend a meeting at St. Mary’s School. Although he liked the area, Ritter said he was even more impressed by how much the staff enjoyed working at the school.
“That, even more than the geography, is why we decided to move here,” he said.
Ritter has a bachelor’s degree in geology from Southern Illinois University. He said he earned money for college working at McDonald’s, where he met Lisa.
After college, Ritter worked for an oil company for two years before he began climbing the hospitality ranks — first as a manager of a Wisconsin hotel, then as manager of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, and later as manager of the Pinehurst Golf Resort in North Carolina.
While in Wisconsin, Ritter accepted substitute teaching jobs and coaching positions in the off-season and loved it. When Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, N.C., offered him a full-time job teaching earth science, physical science and biology, he jumped at it — even though it cost him a six-figure salary.
“Anyone financially advising me would have been, ‘Don’t do this,’ ” he said. “But my kids all supported it, and I’ve never regretted it.”
Ritter taught for the public school system for three years, for Auldern Academy in North Carolina for eight years and for West Nottingham Academy in Maryland for three years before moving to China.
“All my kids are grown, and they’d all traveled extensively, so my wife and I thought maybe it was our turn,” he said.
At Pinghu Middle School, students take Chinese and American classes and graduate with a diploma from the school and St. Mary’s. (Middle schools in China serve students in the 10th through 12th grade.)
“Our goal was to get them ready to go to college in America,” he said.
During the summers, Ritter taught the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.
“There are very, very driven, bright young people, ages 12 to 16, in our program,” he said. “I teach my entire biology course in three weeks. Kids go to school eight hours a day for three weeks.
“It gives me the chance to sharpen my teaching skills,” he said.
Last year, Ritter was one of three teachers nationwide to have his class filmed and used for the professional development of middle school teachers working with talented and gifted students.
Ritter said he encourages his students to ask hard questions that force him to find the answers, and he wants them to know how biology and chemistry impact them directly.
“Biology is the study of life, and you’re a living thing,” he said. “If you can’t find relevance in that, it’s a little troubling.”