Passion, positive demeanor fuel Cass High's Ryan Satterfield
by Jon Gargis
Nov 14, 2010 | 2064 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Schools’ Teacher of the Year Ryan Satterfield helps Julie Stephens solve a problem in his Computer Applications 2 class at Cass High School.  SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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A return to his alma mater to take a teaching job was not in Ryan Satterfield's original career plans.

"I was actually recruited into teaching. At the time, I was actually doing admissions work and visiting Cass [High] on a regular basis, and [a former Cass principal] continued to tell me, 'You need to teach, you need to teach,' that kind of thing, and that 'calling' that most teachers claim to have, it just kept knocking," Satterfield said. "I just kind of took a leap of faith and said, 'You know, I'm going to try this.'

The lifelong Cartersville resident after graduating from Cass High -- he is one of several members of his family, including his parents, who graduated from the school -- obtained his undergraduate degree in business administration from Reinhardt College, now known as Reinhardt University. Before going into teaching, he worked as an admissions counselor for the college. But he is now a teacher in the Business Education department at Cass High in his eighth year at the school, following four years at Adairsville High.

"Not having a traditional background in education or not going through an education program, I was certainly very, very green, so I walked into a classroom day one with basically no kind of practicum or teaching experience or student teaching, nothing that a traditional program would do for you," Satterfield said. "So I learned on the go.

"The first year, I think any teacher will tell you that it's rough," he added. "You throw somebody in there the first year with no training whatsoever, it's rough to the third power. I took my bumps and bruises along the way, learned really quickly and on the go, but the rewards and the benefits certainly outweighed any costs that I was suffer that first year or two. And once I got my feet wet a little bit, obviously it became easier and easier for me, and the passion really never died, and it still hasn't died."

But Satterfield said he stuck with the new occupation so he could fuel a passion he had in his previous career as well. In addition to his undergrad degree, he has a masters in education with a certification in business education. He also holds a specialist degree in leadership and administration.

"Even as an admissions counselor, you're reaping the rewards of working with young people, you're helping them achieve a certain goal," he said. "As an admissions counselor, it was helping them pursue college. That fondness for just working with young adults, that's what led me to high school, just that eagerness to help somewhat shape the lives of young people.

"Watching a kid, in my case, from ninth grade to graduate and then beyond and seeing them succeed in college, some of my students now are obviously married and have children, that's still a very rewarding experience, and to say, 'Did I ultimately have a direct relationship in making that happen?' No, not really, but you still claim them as your own. Any way that you can be helpful to young people, kind of impact them, you feel like you're reaping some kind of benefit."

It was perhaps that passion that led his peers to select him as Cass High's Teacher of the Year, and last month, he earned the title of Bartow County Schools' Teacher of the Year, which is sponsored by the Bartow Education Foundation, and will be the district's nominee in the Georgia Teacher of the Year contest.

One instructor that has seen Satterfield's passion is Mark Zwillich, a fellow instructor in the business education department who serves with Satterfield as an adviser to the school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter. He said Satterfield was "well-liked, well-respected, caring and compassionate.

"I've seen his rapport with the students, I've seen his rapport with his department, the faculty in general -- he'd give you the shirt off his back," Zwillich said. "He's really a super, super individual. We work very well together. We share ideas, we are always different ways to help the kids.

"He's got a great relationship [with his students] ... and he's teaching the kids skills they can use in the web page design and the computer applications," he added. "Before that, I remember when he taught Money & Banking, which is his area of expertise. He's done a great job."

Two of Satterfield's other peers knew him from back when he was sitting in the student seats.

"I had Ryan in FFA all four years, and he grew up on a farm here in Cartersville, they had limousine cattle, and he showed for me ninth through 12th," said Connie Collier, agriculture instructor and FFA adviser. "He was one of my officers, and I guess what made him exceptional, he was just real patient with my other students and helped them. And he's still that way, he still helps me."

Math teacher Clarissa Bagwell had Satterfield in her class years ago. Today, she said, the two work well together even though that are in different departments.

"We always support each other ... it's just a big team effort," she said. "We teach some of the same students, so if they're needing help in calculus, he'll let them come from his room to mine to get help, and vice versa, those kind of things. It's more of a support group than anything else.

"Ryan is one of our leaders. I'm proud of him, both as a colleague and as a Cass alumni, of which I am also. Just to watch him grow up from being a student here when I was a teacher to now being one of our school leaders, I can't be more proud of him and his accomplishments," Bagwell added. "He has good ideas, and he's not afraid to present them to the administration and be willing to carry them out. Where he sees problems in the school, he doesn't just talk about them and gossip about them -- he comes up with a solution and presents it to the faculty or the administration and tries to see that it gets implemented."

Satterfield says he lives and teaches by two philosophies, both of which his students know well.

"My kids will tell you this -- one of them is 'You need to check your passion, and you need to check it every day,'" he said. "I think kids will tell you that pretty much every day, 'He never has a bad attitude,' 'He doesn't come in complaining or whining.' So I try to check my passion daily."

"The other one is, the kids get a kick out of this, I basically tell them 'You can't get my goat, because you don't know where it's tied.' A lot kids try to find it, but I'm like, 'You're not going to ruin my day. You can throw a fit and whine and complain, but I'm not taking you home with me.' And the kids catch on. Don't give someone permission to ruin your day. You're the only person that can give permission to ruin your day.

"I just try to have a really positive outlook."