Camp Mohave teacher was on school’s inaugural staff

February 4, 2019

FORT MOHAVE — Paul Ribelin saw an opportunity to be a pioneer. He also found a home.

Ribelin was on the inaugural staff at Camp Mohave Elementary School when it opened in 1998. He has been teaching fourth grade there ever since.

“I was excited to open a new school,” he said. “I had worked with the principal.”

Ribelin said the first year presented challenges, such as bringing together children from different areas, many of whom were missing their old schools.

“There was a little adjustment,” he said. “But I think for the most part, everybody was excited to be part of a new school.”

He said that as the school matured, he noticed what it was becoming.

“I work with great people,” Ribelin said. “A really hard-working, professional staff. And our administration is easy to work for.”

Ribelin is in his 27th year of teaching.

“A lot is the same,” he said. “Kids are kids. But it seems like there’s a really wide spectrum of kids’ ability levels. It’s more significant than it used to be.”

He said that experience has made him a better teacher, learning new strategies as his career progressed.

“I have a lot of experience with 9-, 10-, 11-year olds,” Ribelin said. “There aren’t many surprises, as far as behavior.”

His first goal each year is to get students to see school as a place they want to be.

“We want to show academic success,” Ribelin said. “But we also want them to have a positive attitude so that school is a place they want to be.”

Grace LaRance wants to be there. She described Ribelin as kind and nice, and enjoys his reward system, in which the students can earn prizes.

“He makes (learning) easy for me,” Grace said. “He makes me learn stuff very fast.”

Also important, Ribelin said, is the role of fourth grade in socializing the students. They learn how to be part of a group and treat one another with respect, he said.

Ribelin said the biggest draw to being a teacher is the interaction with the students.

“It’s fun to see when they engage with the learning and start to be creative,” he said.

Long-term, he said, it’s rewarding to see former students taste success. He said he was especially pleased to see that a former student had become a teacher.

Ribelin said that before he chose a career, he knew he didn’t want something boring. Becoming a teacher, he said, made that impossible.

“It’s something different each day,” Ribelin said. “That’s the fun part. It’s also the challenging part.”

The remainder of the school year will see the fourth-graders working on fractions, geometry, reading comprehension and other skills.

Rick Cottrell, administrative principal at CMES, said that Ribelin is always a model of what the students should strive to emulate.

He praised Ribelin’s ability to connect fun to his students’ lessons, and gave what could be the highest possible endorsement.

“I’ve had three of my own kids in his class,” Cottrell said. “I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him as a teacher for any student.”