Maine teacher named one of top educators in the country

    Dan Ryder (WGME)

    FARMINGTON (WGME) -- A Maine teacher has been picked as one of the top educators in the country.

    He has a quirky sense of humor. He loves to have fun and to say he has lots of energy would be an understatement.

    But the bottom line is, Dan Ryder knows how to connect with his students.

    "He just has something about him that makes a kid want to learn more and everything. He's an awesome teacher,” student Martha Carter said.

    Ryder is the director of the Success and Innovation Center at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

    "Our program is different than everything else on campus because it's more like a library,” Ryder said.

    In the program, which is not a scheduled class, any student can come into his room anytime during the day and get help with anything going on inside or outside of school.

    Ryder describes it as a problem-solving lab for all students and faculty.

    “We do a lot of projects here not like essays and book reports,” student Nathan Gregory said. “He is here to just listen, if you just need to talk. [He’s} very smart and thinks outside the box."

    Ryder also helps with entire classes. On the day CBS 13 stopped by for a visit it was freshman science. They were working on a project just using paper clips, scissors, tape, and writing utensils.

    His next challenge will be with a history class.

    “We're going to be designing games to demonstrate understanding of World War I,” Ryder said.

    Ryder’s innovative teaching style inspired him to write a book for educators called “Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom.”

    It also led him to being picked as one of five national winners of the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.

    The cash prize and national recognition felt great, but for Ryder that's not even close to being the reason why he loves helping students.

    “Teachers are one of the few people in their lives that can have a dramatic impact by doing just a few little things very sincerely and that's a pretty special thing to have every day,” Ryder said.

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