Alumni Answers: Byron Nelson teachers Ben Balduc, Chase Darter, David McRitchie
Alumni Answers: Byron Nelson teachers Ben Balduc, Chase Darter, David McRitchie
Posted on 04/06/2018
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Byron Nelson High School teachers Ben Balduc, Chase Darter and David McRitchie

For educators across the country, teaching jobs often mean going to a school you’ve never visited and ingraining yourself in its culture. For three Byron Nelson High School teachers, their classrooms are familiar territory.

Ben Balduc, Chase Darter and David McRitchie all attended Byron Nelson and now teach at the school. All three were among the school’s first alumni: The school graduated its first class in 2012, which included Mr. Balduc and Mr. McRitchie, and Mr. Darter graduated the following year. Mr. Balduc now teaches social studies and coaches football and track, Mr. McRitchie teaches AP government and economics, and Mr. Darter teaches algebra.

All three say coming back to teach at their alma mater provides an interesting experience and emphasized teaching is rewarding – perhaps even more so when they teach at the same school they attended.

What made you want to become an educator?

Mr. Balduc: I wasn’t sure at first what I wanted to be when I got into college. Eventually through a summer job where I coached – at Byron Nelson of all places – I realized that I enjoyed working with kids, specifically at the high school level. I then took the steps to become a teacher, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Mr. Darter: I chose to be an educator because I want to make an impact in my community. I enjoy helping my students understand the importance of their education as well as how their actions affect others around them.

Mr. McRitchie: I believe there are many reasons for selecting a career path, and mine involved two key things: I wanted to help people improve in some tangible way, and I wanted – for personal reasons – the world to be less uninformed. I feel like teaching allows me to work towards both of those goals.

What’s the experience of teaching in the same school you graduated from like?

Mr. Balduc: It made my first year of teaching easier because I had been in this school before, so I knew how most things already worked. I do think it’s cool to reminisce with some of my students about when I went here and how things were when I was in high school.

Mr. Darter: I love teaching at my alma mater. I understand the culture of the community well, and the mindset of most of my students. It also helped a lot with the “first-year blues” because I was immediately comfortable in my surroundings.

Mr. McRitchie: At first pretty weird. It’s always a bit weird visiting a school after you leave it, and coming back as an employee did feel different. The staff, including some of my former teachers – shout-out to Mrs. Menn, Mrs. Caldwell, Mrs. Edgar, Mr. Weeks, Mr. Moore, and Coach Wilson – helped make the transition easier by supporting me and treating me like a colleague, not a student.

Did it take any adjustment working with educators who used to teach you?

Mr. Balduc: It did take some time at first to get used to working with some of the teachers, especially when I had a few of them as a student. Eventually, it felt like normal working with them and viewing them as colleagues rather than as my old high school teacher.

Mr. Darter: I enjoy working with my former teachers. I do not have to search for advice from someone I trust, because I already have relationships formed with some of the staff.

Mr. McRitchie: Yes, only so far that now I call them by their first name and that takes time getting used to. All of my teachers that are still here are great educators, so I haven’t had any problems asking them for advice.

What’s your favorite aspect of being an educator?

Mr. Balduc: I enjoy working with kids and the subjects that I teach. I am a coach also, and I enjoy doing that very much, even though there is a lot of time and effort committed to it.

Mr. Darter: The best part of teaching is interacting with my students. I teach them math, but I also am helping them through the journey of their freshman to senior years.

Mr. McRitchie: Just teaching. The look on a student’s face when they “get it” is what we work for every day.

What advice would you give this year’s graduating seniors as they prepare for college?

Mr. Balduc: My advice to seniors would be not to stress about figuring out a major on the first day of college. It took my whole freshman year and a summer to figure out that teaching was the right route for me. At the same time, be mindful that – just like in high school – the decisions you make in college can lead to either serious repercussions or great opportunities.

Mr. Darter: Work hard and fight for what you want. College is a great place where you set your own path. If you are willing to devote your time to your chosen field of study, then nothing can stand in the way of your success.

Mr. McRitchie: Be the best “you” you can be. You can’t control how good others are at things, so stop comparing yourself to others. The person you should be doing all of this work and effort for is the one you look in the mirror every day. Make that person proud of the work you’re doing.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017-18 issue of Northwest Navigator magazine.