WARSAW — Around the time many people are beginning to coast toward retirement, Harrison Elementary teacher Rick Glass was embarking on a new career.
Glass previously worked in advertising sales, as a cloth inspector for Burlington Textiles and as a vehicle mechanic at Grace College. In 1978, Glass was offered a job at NAPA Auto Parts. While employed there as a manager in 2001, Glass suffered a heart attack.
Following the heart attack, Glass felt a strong pull to make a career change. With a degree in communications, he initially looked for work in advertising and public relations.
After a year of searching, his wife, Deb, noticed a newspaper article about Indiana’s Transition to Teaching Program.
“Why don’t you become a teacher?” Deb asked, to which Glass responded, “Why not?”
He began taking education classes at Taylor University in Fort Wayne. Glass soon discovered it had been so long since he was fully enrolled in college that most of his credits would not transfer. He was encouraged to return to Grace College where he had done most of his undergraduate work.
At Grace, Glass found that his original grades were too low to meet the requirements of an Indiana teaching license. He was informed he would have to take all education courses except the ones he took at Taylor. Additionally, in each of those classes, he would have to earn an A. It took two years for Glass to complete the requirements while continuing to work full time.
In 2004, at the age of 54, Glass began student teaching at Eisenhower Elementary, where he was hired as a long-term substitute teacher. During that time, Glass interviewed with three other area schools.
“Randy Polston invited me to teach fourth grade at Harrison Elementary beginning with the 2005-2006 school year,” said Glass. “Four years ago, I moved to teaching second grade at Harrison.”
Glass coached soccer at Harrison for 10 years. During that time, his teams won five city championships, going undefeated in three of those seasons. Glass sponsors the Robotics Club and co-sponsors the Astronomy Club with colleague Ed Jarrett.
“Together, we have given Harrison the only astronomical observatory in Indiana which is wholly dedicated to educating elementary students,” said Glass. “ We are known as the Harrison Junior Astronomical Society.”
Glass and his wife have five children, all married with families of their own. They also have 24 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. When Glass isn’t immersed in school-related activities, he and Deb keep busy by taking pictures for a small business they started, Four Steps Photography.
Known for his quick wit, sense of humor and dedication, Glass is a favorite among students, parents and colleagues.
“One of the most exciting things I ever did in teaching was to connect my students with other classrooms around the world,” Glass stated. “Early on, I connected with the International Give Something Back Foundation, which led a learning experience called the Global Virtual Classroom. They sponsored an international web design competition with teams made up of three schools from different parts of the world.”
Glass’ first partnership was with a school from Oak Park, Ill. and a school from Petach Tikva, Israel.
“We created a website called the School of Kindness,” said Glass. “We won first place – in the world.”
“I will never regret the choice I made to enter teaching. Now that I’ve been doing it for a dozen years, former students are coming back and affirming to me that I made a difference for them,” said Glass. “That’s all I ever wanted to do – make a difference.”
Glass relates a conversation that took place when he was ending his previous career.
“My boss asked why I was leaving when it would obviously take so much work to become a teacher,” Glass recalls. “I told him if it took ten years to get my license and if I only got to teach for one day, and if on that one day, I made a difference in the life of one child, it would all be worth it.”