Ric Druse, who has spent 33 years teaching at James Hart School in Homewood, is set to retire on June 3.
Druse spent all but two years of his 35-year career as a science teacher to sixth, seventh and eighth graders in District 153. He also coached Scholastic Bowl and Hart baseball teams.
Since his early teaching days in the mid-1980s, his field has changed a lot, he said, adding “it was completely different” back then.
“It’s not so much the teaching part of it that’s changed but the amount of information that’s available to these kids. Push a button and they have tons of information at their fingertips.
“When I first started off, it was take the kids to the library and teach them how to use the card catalogue and teach them how to research, teach them where to look for information, how to footnote, how to paraphrase,” he said. “You don’t have to do that anymore because it’s all right there. They have programs that can do the footnotes for them, programs that will search different sources and pull up different information so they can compare it.”
When asked if he misses how things were in his early teaching days, he said “in some ways yes and in some ways no.” He thinks there’s something to be said for “having to do the work and digging a little.” But at the same time, he enjoys the accessibility and immediacy modern technology offers.
“I’ve always tried to keep up with the trends and the technology — not always successfully — but it is what it is. You can’t stop progress,” he said. “You just have to either adjust with it or kind of get left behind.”
Beyond the technological changes he’s seen throughout his career, Druse said elections and new state and federal leadership meant more changes to his field. One change he found difficult to navigate was related to testing parameters.
“One administration would be in favor of testing and the next wouldn’t, so things would go back and forth and there were always a lot of changes being mandated,” he said.
Nonetheless, he considers himself fortunate to teach in Homewood. Druse said the superintendents and school board members he’s worked with genuinely cared about students and the staff, which is “unusual in today’s climate.”
“A lot of times it’s always us versus them or teachers versus administration, and we don’t have that in Homewood. That’s been a blessing for me,” he said.
Plus the Homewood community felt more like a family than anything else, he added.
“There’s a lot of kids I see as my own kids,” he said. “There’s just that family feel. You learn about their interests, their families and what they like to do and the parents are supportive.”
In his retirement, he’s considering doing some adjunct work at a college or helping other people become teachers. But when he isn’t at home working in his yard or working on a project, he will be spending time with his family.