Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things they do.
Rachelle Dene Poth has dedicated her life to the educational development of youths and other professionals who lead them.
“I was just always into learning, even as an adult,” the Riverview High School teacher said. “I just love it and I feel like, if I stopped pushing myself and learning these different things, I’m taking opportunities away from a student.”
Poth, an attorney and author of three books, began her career at Riverview in January 1997.
She has taught Spanish, French and STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — courses. She also has served as an assistant track coach and a color guard sponsor.
Poth earned teaching degrees from Penn State University for French in 1993 and for Spanish in 1997. She earned a law degree from Duquesne University in 2006, and a master’s in instructional technology from Duquesne in 2018. She and her husband, David, an engineer with Norfolk Southern railroad, live in North Huntingdon.
“I get excited when I come to work in the morning,” said Poth, 47. “I really wouldn’t be doing any of this if it were not for the students.”
In 2017, she earned the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.
Poth uses iPads, 3-D design, virtual reality, gaming programs and other technologies in her classes to offer project-based learning — all key to earning the award from the association.
“We don’t know five, 10, 15 years from now what the jobs are going to look like, what education’s going to look like,” she said. “I feel like we all have responsibilities to give students really exciting learning opportunities that are different from anything else.”
When she’s not busy writing lesson plans, Poth puts pen to paper of another sort.
Poth recently released “In Other Words: Quotes that Push Our Thinking.” It’s available on Amazon.
“When I decided on writing this, specific book, I focused it on quotes and how all of the books that I have read the last couple of years have pushed my thinking and my work with the students have served to re-engage me in teaching,” she said.
“What I really wanted to do with the book was tell not just my story, but share the stories of a lot of educators who have helped me to grow professionally and personally.
”I wanted it to be a book that anybody can read. You don’t have to be in education, because these quotes really do lead you to think about life and experiences.”
Two of her students, seniors Cassy DeBacco and Celaine Hornsby, co-wrote a chapter called “Lights, Learning, Action.”
They have gone to several conferences with Poth and led presentations in front of educators and other professionals.
Poth, a 1989 Norwin High School graduate, credits her drive and commitment to excellence to her upbringing in North Huntingdon.
“I’m very thankful for how I was raised because we didn’t have the distractions of technology in the ’80s,” Poth said. “My parents really emphasized school and studying to be prepared. My grandparents helped me with my work ethic and had me pick strawberries on their farm at 6:30 in the morning. When I think back to all of those times I spent with them, the experiences that I had started to form who I am as a teacher and as a person even before I knew I wanted to go into teaching.”
Her other recent accomplishments include being named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and receiving the 2018 President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award.
Each year, Microsoft selects innovative educators to share ideas, try new approaches and learn from each other as a global community dedicated to improving student outcomes through technology.
The gold award was given for her more than 500 hours of volunteer service, which were earned while serving as president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network.
Poth said she is working on another book.