Combining sports and classroom 'a bonus'
Ryan Berg was educated in the Catholic school setting. He remembers a number of teachers that inspired him to look into an education career for himself.
He has been a member of the teaching staff at St. Mary's High School for the past six years. Berg will be recognized by the Diocese of Sioux City along with four other teachers from northwest Iowa with the Bishop Lawrence D. Soens Award at the Eighth Annual Bishop's Dinner for Catholic Education. This award was created to recognize teachers who have demonstrated a commitment to faith-based education in the classrooms. The ceremony will be held Oct. 17 in Sioux City.
Monsignor Roger J. Augustine, Administrator of the Diocese of Sioux City, praised the honorees for the important role they play.
"Those who choose to teach in Catholic schools do so knowing they can have a profound impact in the faith formation of our young people," he said. "We are blessed to have them in our schools."
Berg attended elementary schools in Vail and Arcadia and graduated from Carroll Kuemper High School.
"I had a good idea at that time that teaching was something I thought I'd enjoy doing," he said. A true sports enthusiast, he also knew he wanted to incorporate coaching into his career.
Berg graduated from Buena Vista University and had the opportunity to work with some of the athletes at St. Mary's as a college student.
A full-time teaching and coaching position opened up at the school as he was finishing his courses. He jumped at the chance to apply and was thrilled when he was selected.
Berg teaches freshman and sophomore English, senior religion classes, a couple of English elective classes, and coaches girls high school basketball and high school baseball.
He feels his students thrive in the Catholic school setting. "It has always been an ideal situation," he said. "It's one I've been in all my life and it's one I enjoy. I enjoy sharing examples of things I've learned when it comes to how God can play a role in our lives."
The well-like teacher also enjoys the small school setting which allows him to become acquainted with all the students. He considers it an "extra bonus" when he has the opportunity to teach the students in the classroom AND on the basketball court or baseball field. "I get to know the students in a different way. I have the chance to get to know more of their personalities. I enjoy helping all of my students with issues and getting them to see what their potentials are and helping them get as close to those potentials as I can."
Students Becky Lenhart, Ashley Schultz and Emily Godfredson enjoy Berg as their teacher and coach. "He makes everything fun," said Lenhart. "We don't go in his classroom and spend 40 minutes being bored. He's a good coach, too. I learn a lot from him. He pushes me to do my best and that's good."
Schultz added, "He has a way of always making us smile."
They also commented that they enjoy the prayers he selects for them to recite together at the start of each class period.
Berg has his own unique teaching style, patterned after five "Teachers of the Year" or finalists that he came into contact with while in college. For a research project, he obtained names of teachers who had received or who were considered for this prestigious award and had the opportunity to sit in their classrooms to grasp their teaching techniques. "I watched each of them in action for a whole day and interviewed each of them. It was a real learning experience and it helped to shape my own classroom."
He explained, "I try to have several different things going on in the class period." This, he said, makes the class time more interesting. Reading out loud to the high school students from novels he has selected is a favorite part of his class time. "He picks good books that keep us interested," said Godfredson. "And he always stops reading in places we don't want him to!"
An interesting classroom tool is a "quote of the day" he shares with the students. "I enjoy giving them pieces of motivation, attempting to motivate them and inspire them," Berg said.
He enjoys keeping in touch with students that have graduated. "It's nice to follow along and see what they're doing."
If there is anything he hopes his students will remember about him, it is this: "First, I hope my students will remember that I attempted to push them so they knew they had to give a good effort to succeed but at the same time that I liked to joke around with them from time to time to let them know that it's not always super serious. And second, that if there was a situation that they needed help in or a problem to solve or someone to talk to that they knew I was always there for them."
Berg and his wife Courtney, an accountant in the business office at BVU, reside in Storm Lake.
Heidi Larsen, third grade teacher at St. Mary's School, was the recipient of this prestigious award last year.