Photo Credit: USI Photography Services
Paul Rynkiewich ’81, a teacher and football coach at North Posey Senior High School, is one of only 26 teachers from five regions across the United States to receive the 2012-13 Peabody Energy Leaders in Education Award. He was surprised with the award and an oversized check for $1,000 at a special assembly held at the school in November.
Known to students and colleagues as “Mr. Rynk,” Rynkiewich was instrumental in establishing North Posey High’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes program and instituted anthropology in the school’s curriculum. He also teaches advanced college credit courses to help prepare students pursuing higher education.
Rynkiewich holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Southern Indiana and a master’s degree from the University of Evansville. Immediately following his graduation from USI, Rynkiewich taught at Castle High School in Newburgh, Indiana. He joined the staff at North Posey High School in fall of 1983. He has taught there ever since, influencing and inspiring generations of students.
Erin Gibson, USI instructor in journalism and a 1992 alumnus of North Posey High School, said, “Mr. Rynk taught one of my history classes and my geography class. He was so engaging and really enjoyed teaching.”
The teachers at North Posey High were known for puns and tried to out-pun each other in class, Gibson said. “I will never forget Mr. Rynk teaching us about the volcanos of Krakatoa,” she said. “He would accidentally kick the desk and say, ‘Oh, I cracked my toe-a,’ and that’s how we remembered that. I loved history and geography but even students who didn’t could appreciate his lectures.”
Erin Koester, the assistant principal at North Posey High School who nominated Rynkiewich for the award, is also a former student. In nominating him, she wrote, “After 31 years of being an educator, many teachers lose that spark and passion for their content area that students long to see as they sit in those desks day after day. ‘Mr. Rynk’ is definitely not an example of this trend. His thunderous voice and commitment to providing his students with the opportunity to relive history in every lesson plan has never diminished.”
Koester said that Rynkiewich inspired her to seek leadership roles in education. “He has not only used his integrity to be a leader in education, but also to form a legacy with hundreds of North Posey graduates that have gone on to be leaders in their careers and strive to have the same genuine integrity in their lives.”
Rynkiewich and his wife Melissa have two grown children. Their daughter Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude from USI in spring 2012 and is an emergency room nurse at Deaconess Health System. Their son Frank will graduate from USI in spring 2013 with a degree in mechanical engineering and has secured a position at Alcoa after interning there.
“USI has been very beneficial for my family,” Rynkiewich said. “I marvel at USI and how it’s grown, changed, expanded, and improved. I’m grateful for what it’s meant to me and to my kids.”
This marks the second consecutive year that a USI alumnus has been selected for the Peabody Energy Leaders in Education Award. USI alumnus Chad Hartmann ’95, a mathematics teacher at Helfrich Park STEM Academy, received the award in 2011-12.
Peabody Energy selects winners of the awards among nominees from the Greater St. Louis Metro Area; Southeastern Illinois and Southwestern Indiana; Western-Central Indiana; the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming; and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The purpose of the awards is to “recognize the heroes in education who help our children achieve their true potential.”