Reese Richardson, Pathways to Success physical education/health teacher & coach

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

Coach Reese Richardson grew up in Ann Arbor, the youngest of three boys in a sports-loving family. He attended Thurston Elementary, where his love for the game blossomed, followed by Clague Middle School and Huron High School.  

Soccer has always been a big part of Richardson’s life. As a student at Huron High, he played for the Michigan Olympic Development Program from 1997 to 1998.  Next, Richardson earned a scholarship to Western Michigan University where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. At WMU, he earned Mid-American All-Conference honors his first two seasons as a striker on the varsity men’s soccer team, and was named the 1999/2000 MAC Newcomer of the Year his freshman season.

After his collegiate playing career,  Richardson earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Michigan University (2008), and later a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marygrove College.

His Pathways to Success co-worker Quinn Strassel says Richardson brings his heart and soul to the classroom and the court. 

“He finds a way to challenge kids and hold them accountable while also guiding and supporting them,” says Strassel.  “Kids know he cares about them and the gym is a place of refuge for many of our students who need it the most.”

Coach Richardson has been a physical education teacher in the Ann Arbor Public Schools for 13 years.

Photo of Reese Richardson in the gym at Pathways to Success.

How is this year going so far?
The school year is going well and is always full of new opportunities.  Meeting and learning with new students is always one of the greatest joys of teaching.  Like my students, I continue to learn and grow with each school year.  

How do you feel about the district’s emphasis on dignity and belonging?
The district’s new emphasis on dignity and learning is a great way to make each student feel respected and appreciated for what they bring to the learning environment and school community. 

When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
As a first-year teacher, I remember trying to imitate all of the teachers who taught my same class.  It was difficult because whenever you are trying to be someone else it never quite comes off how you want it to.  As I grew as a person and a teacher I became comfortable trying new things and making my class my own.  

What inspired you to become a teacher?
My mother was a kindergarten teacher in Willow Run and I think seeing her do it made me feel as though it was obtainable, as young people seeing themselves in professional settings is important when setting goals.  If I can see someone I am close to accomplishing it, then I know I can do it too. 

Tell us about the Pathways basketball team.
Last year we brought back the Pathways basketball team and it was a huge success.  We played various teams including Cambridge Alternative in Garden City and Central Academy here in Ann Arbor.  Having a team really helped build connections to the school for our students both on and off the team.  Basketball and sports can create an authentic feeling of community that boosts morale in many aspects of life.  I wanted to do it because I know how profound of an impact sports had on me as a young man.  It encouraged me to pursue college and feel a sense of belonging in school and amongst my peers. When I saw it do that for our students at Pathways I knew the team had been a success. 

Last year's Pathways basketball team
Richardson coaching last year’s basketball team. Tryouts for this year’s team will be held on Nov. 21.

What’s the happiest part of your day?
I love teaching, but the happiest part of my day is when I get to be with my family.  My wife Kya and our two daughters Zori, 6, and Nova, 4, always make me smile and appreciate life’s beauty.  

What’s one of your hidden talents?
One of my hidden talents is I can make people laugh seemingly without trying.  I have always been considered a jokester and as I get older I try to shake the image but it always comes back to my sense of humor and how I like to inject fun into everything that I do.  I think that’s what my kids and students like most about me. 

How do you stay fit and healthy? 
I play soccer every week and have since college.  It helps me to stay fit and keep a connection with my good friends that I have had for years. 

I also coach for Liverpool FC.  We recently won the Capital Area Classic in Lansing and my daughter Zori was a player on the team.  This was a great moment for me as a coach and parent.  I love to coach because it keeps me close to a game that has given me so much.  I could never repay it for the blessings soccer has brought to my life.  

Describe your perfect meal. Who would be at the table, where would you be, and what would you be eating?
Steak(rib eye), roasted potatoes, vegetable medley, and salad. With ranch, of course.

How do you spend your summers?
I work the SISS Summer Academy as a Lead Teacher and I love it!  Building relationships with students and staff is really important and also makes me feel like I am continuing to grow professionally and personally which are two of my main goal areas. 

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
My wonderful family and soccer are the most exciting things in my life.  I thoroughly enjoy spending my time doing just about anything with them.

Richardson’s ideal way to spend time is with his wife, Kya, and daughters, our two daughters Zori, 6, and Nova, 4.

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