Patch: How did you come to teach at ?
Paul Schwent: Fern Ridge was my first teaching job. I was 21 years old and just out of college. I was called by the school's assistant principal for an interview and really took a liking to the place immediately. The small classes and a chance to build relationships with students.
Patch: What was your relationship like with students as a first-year teacher at Fern Ridge?
Schwent: It was a bit challenging at first. I wasn't much older than some of my students. But as I got to know my students they realized I had their best interests at heart and I was there because I wanted to be.
Patch: Fern Ridge seems like an unstructured, flexible environment. Would more structure be helpful for Fern Ridge students?
Schwent: If you compare us to other alternative programs, we are a bit more flexible but because we have a small enrollment, we can keep account of our students. We know if they don't show up for school or a class. We handle any problems on a case by case basis.
Patch: What methods do you find most effective in the classroom?
Schwent: The best approach is to keep students engaged. Boredom is the enemy. I try to show students that there is a point to what they are learning. Many don't believe in themselves and we try to build confidence.
Patch: Do you have a success story you can share?
Schwent: Many of our students graduate and go on to college or tech schools. I consider them successful.
We did have a student; a young woman. She was very bright but socially inept. We worked through those issues here. She graduated and is now working on a doctorate in archaeology. We can find the strengths of each student and help them to be successful.