A photo of a man from the shoulders up.
Ryan Getz says, “I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life.” (Contributed photo)

Class of 2024: Ryan Getz feels at home in the classroom

Graduate certificate in elementary education propels the student teacher, who will start his master’s program at VCU in August.

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Ryan Getz finds magic in the “light bulb” moments his students experience when they grasp a new concept.

“Teaching is the love of learning new things, and I like to help others learn new things. I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life,” said Getz, a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student who in May will receive his graduate Certificate in Teaching Elementary Education. “I want to make sure that students have a good experience. I want to be the safe space for them.”

Getz, who earned his undergraduate degree in psychology at VCU, grew up in King William County on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula and was inspired by his 11th-grade chemistry teacher, Tracey Folks, at King William High School.

“She was awesome. She saw students as a whole person with expectations. She really understood us,” Getz said.

As a freshman at VCU, he pivoted from his dream of teaching, opting to major in psychology as a way to help others. But he decided that, after graduation, he would refocus on education, which prompted him to take several cross-curricular courses such as education and adolescent psychology. 

“It helped me form attitudes in the best way,” Getz said. “I can help kids learn better.”

Since this past August, Getz has been working as a student teacher through the RTR Teacher Residency program in the Center for Teacher Leadership in VCU’s School of Education. He has been teaching third grade at Occoquan Elementary School in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County.

“I just got hired to teach third grade there next year,” he said, and he will start his master’s degree program in education at VCU this August.

Teaching in Occoquan has taught Getz a new set of skills.

“It has taken me out of my comfort zone. I have more self-confidence. I’ve become more open-minded for different people and experiences,” he said. “This is also the first time I’ve moved out from my parents’ house. It’s definitely a learning experience — taking full responsibility for the household, finances and planning for the future. It’s a big but welcome change.”

Getz likes working with elementary school students for the chance to dramatically shape their education.

“They are more moldable at this age,” he said, noting the importance of addressing the pandemic’s impact. “Some of their social skills are not developed fully, and you can tell.”

While some educators move into school administration after teaching, Getz has a more straightforward plan. He simply wants to teach.

“I love being in the classroom,” he said.