Mandy RichardsWhere were you born?  I was born in Longview.

Where did you go to school?  I went to Barnes Elementary, Huntington Middle School and was Kelso High School class of 1996.

Did you like high school?  I loved it.

Why did you love high School? I am a social person and loved all of my friends. We had a very good class of about 400. I was involved in sports and all other things.

What sports were you involved in? I played volleyball, basketball and fast pitch softball.

What sport did you like the best? Probably volleyball, which I coach now.

Where do you coach volleyball? I coach our local Cowlitz Aces Club and then I coach for Three Rivers High School.

Have you been involved in volleyball for quite a few years? Yes, I used to coach at RA Long High School before I had kids. I stopped when the kids were born. I took some time off and thought I would never do it again, just because life gets so busy with kids. Then my girls got into volleyball, and when the opportunity arose, I got back into it.

How many kids do you have? I have three. Our oldest is a boy, Wyatt; he is a senior and is seventeen. We have a sophomore, Mabrie, and she is sixteen. Then we have Lily. She is an eighth grader.

When you were in high school did you know you wanted to be a teacher?  Yes! I grew up as a kid, loving kids. We always had kids in our home. I am an only child, so I loved being around kids. My husband and I dated in high school, we would go on dates and we would have little toddlers with us. He is like, “I should have known then!” I have just always loved kids.

Where did you go to college? I went to Lower Columbia College for two years and then went to Central Washington University to earn my teaching degree.

What was it like being a new teacher? It was very intimidating. I was 21 years old and the kids were 18! It was uncomfortable, but I always say when you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, you grow.

Can you tell us about your first class? Yes, it was a split first grade-second grade class, and people thought I was crazy, but I was 21 years old and so eager. The hardest part was I had about six parents pull their kids out of my class before class started because I was a new teacher. It was one of the best classes ever. I still am in touch with those kids. They were wonderful.

Have you been at Robert Gray your whole career?  Yes, this is my 20th year.

Did you plan on teaching at Robert Gray for a long time? Oh yes. It has been great. I think every school has its challenges, but this is a great place and I do not take that for granted.

What is the best part of being a teacher? Hands down, the kids.

Are the kids of today the same as when you started twenty years ago? Every year brings new kids and new challenges. Every year is a new opportunity to grow and learn and it makes me a better parent, it makes me a better teacher for other kids, more understanding and empathetic of situations.

What sort of skills does it take to be a good teacher? My first thought is, loving and caring. Everyone can learn curriculum, standards and things like that, but you have to love kids.

Is teaching a hard job? Yes, teaching is hard and never ending. Even if I do not have work to take home, I am always thinking of ways to help kids in different scenarios. Both mentally and emotionally, it is never ending.

If you were going to give advice to a new teacher what would you tell them?  I would tell them to invest the time to know their kids personally. Good relationships are the basis for the best learning and environment. Once the kids trust you, and know that you are here for them, they work harder.

What is your favorite color? I have been asked that so many times – I do not have a favorite color! I like all colors.

Do you have a favorite number? Yes, 22 or 2. It was my sports number.

What is your favorite food?  That is another hard one. I love all food. I am a health nut, so I do not eat a lot of junk. I eat whole food, nothing too processed. Like meat, vegetable, game meat. Our family hunts. If it was around 100 years ago, then it is good to eat now.

Do you hunt? I do not. I will cook it, but I do not hunt. Simply because of time.

What do you enjoy doing outside of school?   We like to go on family walks. We love road trips during the summer. We usually go to Arizona during the summer for two weeks and do nothing but hang out with our family.

Where in Arizona? Scottsdale. People think we are nuts because we go in the summer and it is 118 degrees outside. I love the heat and we spend a lot of time in the pool.

What do you do to relax on vacation? No technology. We all read books, play board games – I love board games. From UNO to Tellestrations to Monopoly. And puzzles too.

What are some of your favorite books? I like to read non- fiction, usually books about taking care of your body. I use essential oils and like to make many of our own products such as deodorant, perfume, shampoo, hand soap, chapstick, and more.

Do you work out? No, not so much, I would like to. I coach two club teams, so I participate. Working out is something I would like to do more.

What would you like to tell the community about our schools?  The biggest thing is that people just do not know what schools are like now. We have to do a lot of teaching, not academic, but social and emotional. How you interact with people, how you have a conversation, so I think just sharing with people and trying to help educate them. It truly is an investment, whether you agree with what the schools are doing or not, it is an investment in our future.

Do you have a positive outlook about the future?  Yes, I would say there are way more positives than negatives, the negatives can sometimes weigh you down. Kids are doing great; they just need to know what to do and how to do it.

How do you recognize positive behavior in class? One thing I started in my class is a VIP desk. Sometimes it can be easy for a teacher to focus on the kids that are not doing the right thing, while the kids that are always doing the right thing get overlooked. The students who behave well get to sit at a special “Very Important Person” desk. They are rewarded for doing what is expected.

How is the VIP desk special?  Every day I draw a new name based on data from the targeted behavior and they get to sit there. I fill a container with snacks that they can have throughout the day. They get special pens, pencils, stickers and different things that I may change out.

Has the VIP desk been successful? Yes, it is rewarding them for what they are already doing. I try to apply everything to real life, so in real life that is going to happen. Your boss is going to recognize when you are working hard. Your boss is going to recognize when you do well. I am very open and honest with my kids and I say if you are not doing the maximum, and you are only doing the minimum, it is not going to work in a job. It is going to be hard for you. I want to help them build the best character for themselves that they can.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I would highly suggest people teach if they love kids.

 

Mrs. Richards visiting her student at the hospital.

Mrs. Richards visiting her student while she recovers from surgery.