ShareThis Page

Uniontown teacher makes the grade

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Rebecca Ritenour Uniontown Area High School teacher
Uniontown Area High School teacher Rebecca Ritenour is one of only 29 National Board Certified teachers across the country to be selected to attend the third annual TeachFest conference May 2-5 in San Francisco.

Each school year, Uniontown Area High School teacher Rebecca Ritenour makes it her mission to find new ways to connect with her students. She is part of a growing educational movement to make students of all ages and skill levels excited about learning.

“I'm not just passionate about what I teach, I'm passionate about who I teach,” Ritenour said. “I want to form a relationship with my students so they will want to learn, because it's me they are learning from.”

A National Board Certified teacher, Ritenour has a bachelor's degree in English education and a master's in English literature, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“I love school so much, I never left. I'll still be in school 20 years from now. I teach, not to make students love my subject, but so they can learn the basic skills necessary for them to be successful in life,” Ritenour said.

Ritenour teaches AP English 12 and other courses at Uniontown. She also works with ninth-grade teachers to plan the school's Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTII) lessons, which focuses on students' specific skill sets and learning needs.

“I'll do whatever it takes to get my point across in the classroom,” Ritenour said. “I treat my students the way I want to be treated. I respect them, and I think that makes a difference.”

Her hard work paid off, as she was one of less than 200 teachers chosen from more than 3,200 applicants nationwide to attend the third annual TeachFest conference May 2-5 in San Francisco.

“The best part of the trip was meeting other teachers who care as much as I do. They, too, want to make a difference for their students,” Ritenour said.

Following a rigorous application process, Ritenour became one of only 29 National Board Certified teachers to make the trip, completely funded by

Eric Westendorf and Alix Guerrier founded the organization with the intent of making learning more individualized and accessible to students, parents and educators through “screencasts.”

The interactive slide show presentations with voice-over features — created entirely by Ritenour and a network of other teachers — bring the classroom to the home and make learning specific concepts easier for students. They also allow educators to see how their peers teach various lessons.

“Not everyone learns the same way. The ‘screencasts' use as few words as possible to explain complicated ideas, because students respond more to images than text,” Ritenour said.

TeachFest participants had the opportunity to work in groups with other educators who teach the same grades and subjects to create several “screencasts” for the organization. Ritenour also enjoyed several social events during the trip, such as a cocktail party, dance and a trivia night.

“The purpose of TeachFest was to remind us why we teach,” Ritenour said. “It also let us form relationships in the teaching community.”

One of the trip's most inspiring moments for Ritenour was during a viewing of the independent film, “Caine's Arcade.” They met the film's creator and its stars at TeachFest.

“The film demonstrated the impact one person can make in the life of a child,” Ritenour said. “The room was full of crying adults when the film ended, because it showed us what we, as educators, can do if we take the time to relate to our students.”

When the school year ends, Ritenour will continue working through the summer with her TeachFest group members to create more LearnZillion materials. She credits her students for her motivation.

“I'd put Uniontown High School's students up against anyone, and they would hold their own,” Ritenour said. “I want to be a role model for them, so they realize you can come from anywhere and still receive a good education.”

LearnZillion requires teachers to reapply for TeachFest each year. Ritenour intends to continue to do so, in order to improve learning experiences for students across the country.

“Every child is gifted, regardless of their ZIP code or learning capabilities,” Ritenour said. “It's all about finding out what works for them.”

For more information about TeachFest, visit

Kaylie Harper is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.