Ryan Wells started at the Washington High School in August, but began with different plans for a career.
Wells was born and raised in Grove City. He graduated from Grove City High School in 2009 and then attended Wabash College in Indiana. He went on to Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky and, after graduating with his teaching license, he taught at Knott County Central High School down in southeast Kentucky for a short time.
“I decided, man, first off I don’t have any money left over, this is crazy, and I didn’t like what I was studying,” Wells said. “I was a rhetoric major, which is like public speaking and communication. I also had a double minor in English and religion. I was thinking, what am I going to do with this? Originally I wanted to be a lawyer, but I am too ‘hillbilly’ for that. I don’t like doing that much paperwork. So then I decided I wanted to be a teacher thinking it would be less paperwork. I also liked helping kids out. I was even in a fraternity and I helped a number of kids write their papers and helped them with classwork.”
Wells began to consider a teaching career and researched affordable colleges, which is how he found out about Alice Lloyd College. He received a scholarship to the school and did not have to pay to go there. Wells got his degree after two years in history and secondary education, which covers grades seven through 12. After living in Kentucky for about a year, Wells wanted to move back home and ended up serving as a librarian at the Grove City High School. Despite the job being a good one, it required a masters in library science and that was not something Wells wanted. He then applied for a job in the Washington C.H. City School District and began teaching U.S. government and American studies at the beginning of this school year.
As a new teacher, Wells talked about what he finds to be the best and worst parts of his job.
“The most difficult thing to teach? I think motivation,” Wells said. “Motivation and how do you engage these kids? Let’s face it, U.S. government, my gosh, that is the most boring subject there is. It is so cut and dry. Nobody cares what the government does or what the parts do, so how do you reach these kids? How do you get them motivated to learn, be interested about U.S. government and take that and apply it elsewhere?”
Wells said that his favorite part of the job is all of the students that he has the opportunity to teach. He said that his ultimate job would be a guidance counselor. Wells said that during sixth period, his planning period when he has no kids to teach, there are always a bunch of kids hanging out and talking to him. He said he enjoys this because he likes talking to the students about “real life stuff,” not always about U.S. government or things such as “What does a presiding officer do for the legislative branch?”
“I care about what these kids want to do when they get out of high school and how can you make a change,” Wells said. “Do they have the skills they need to survive after high school? Because when I went to college I was absolutely shocked, it was terrible. But if I could talk to them about making a difference in their lives in some way, that would be good. The most rewarding part of my job is if I can see that light bulb go off in some kid’s brain, if I can see it, that is the best. If somehow they can explain what we learned and apply it to something else, explain the relevance of it and why we are learning about it today I know I did well. All of it helps to teach accountability, responsibility and other important lessons such as those.”
In education, there are areas where families around the state would like to see progress. Wells explained that he would like to see progress in reading and writing, and holding the kids accountable to know those skills. He explained that many times by the time he got to the students’ senior years, many did not know how to read or write.
“I think it really started out as, ‘Hey this kid is a real problem, let’s just give it to someone else,’” Wells said. “That is terrible. Half the kids had not been held accountable. How can you make it to senior year and not know how to write papers or how to study? That’s terrible. These are the fundamentals, they need these skills in life.”
Wells said he is proud of a few particular accomplishments, including winning a speech competition at Alice Lloyd College three times. This led him to speak at a Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) convention in front of about 10,000 people, where he talked about bringing back the coal mining communities. He said he was very nervous about the speech, but he did a great job.
Wells currently resides in Grove City, but is planning on moving to Fayette County next year to continue his teaching career within the school district. He also spends time listening to a ton of music, especially on the commute, and recently finished coaching wrestling. He said he is disappointed that the season is over, but he said that he is glad to be getting outside in the better weather.
“If there was a fishing team here, I would be going for it, or just porch sitting, if that was a club, I would be all for it,” Wells said. “I have been down in southeast Kentucky, and it was a different world in that high school. Grove City, Court House and Knott County, they are completely different worlds. The thing I was really only shocked about when I came here is the technology available, the unity among the kids and the unity among the teachers is great. The kids have each other’s backs and the teachers get along great, doing things outside of school together. That is one of the big differences that keeps people here.”