Riverview High School teacher pens fifth book with help from educators around the globe – TribLIVE


When Riverview High School teacher Rachelle Poth needed artwork for her books a few years ago, she got help from one of her young learners.

Freshman Hann Morrissey worked on the covers of “In Other Words” and “Unconventional: Ways to Thrive in EDU.”

So when it came to art for her latest book, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” Poth knew which student to call upon. Hann, now a junior, crafted the people shown on its cover.

“Working with Miss Poth on the cover was certainly an enlightening experience,” Hann said. “She just gave me some general prompts, like ‘shy,’ or ‘punk,’ and I used stereotypes to turn those adjectives into characters. Once I thought I was done, I would submit the drawings and sit back, proud of my work.”

After a few minor tweaks from the publisher and designs from Julie Woodward, an educator from Texas, the front was finalized and a lesson was learned.

“The project allowed me to create art that I would not have produced otherwise, and taught me more about the publishing process,” Hann said. “I am so lucky and grateful to have worked on the cover, and I’m quite proud of the end result.”

Poth has been a Riverview teacher since the 1997-98 school year. She’s taught Spanish, French and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) courses and also served as a track and cheerleading coach.

From personal anecdotes to collaboration

“True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” is her fifth book. It was originally going to be filled with experiences from her legendary career in Oakmont, but became a huge opportunity for others after a social media post.

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Poth said she told fellow educators via Twitter about the book and received tremendous support for it. So much so that 35 educators from around the world, including Kuwait, Malaysia and New Zealand, wanted to talk about what someone taught them.

“It’s a pretty big process,” Poth said about the collaborations. “It is a lot bigger process than straight up writing all on my own. But it was far more interesting and inclusive.”

Some used the person’s name while others kept the “kid” anonymous.

Experiences range from humorous anecdotes, to stories of loss and triumph, to reaffirmations of why the contributors got into education.

Poth was able to edit them down to fit under the message and acronym – THRIVE. It stands for tenacity, honesty, relatability, integrity, vulnerability and empathy.

“It’s something I hope people will read and think, ‘Yeah — I’ve had the same thing happen to me,’” Poth said.

“Some will make you laugh and roll your eyes and some are sad, but it’s a lesson. You never know how many moments you have.

”It’s a big mix. I’m really excited about it because of the different stories that are in it, and how it is something that even if you’re not in education you can (relate).”

One of the contributors

Bruce Antkowiak, law professor and criminology department chair at Saint Vincent College, was one of the contributors to Poth’s book.

He said it was an honor to help out a friend and share one of his experiences.

“Rachelle was a student of mine when I taught in law school,” said Antkowiak. “She has been a friend for years. I related a story about an old joke I heard from a former governor of Texas who said of a political rival that he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

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”The story is part of helping students measure success not by where a person ends up but by how far they have journeyed to get there. To urge them to give a full measure of devotion to every minute as the true measure of educational success.”

Antkowiak hopes people can learn something from Poth’s book.

“Great leaders in any walk of life need perspective,” he said. “If teachers can gain perspective on their effectiveness by reflecting on the stories told to them by their students, it will help guide their efforts to reach their students in more profound ways.

Other local contributors include social worker Brian Rice and Hopewell Area School District teacher Kristen Nan.

Where to find it

Poth’s books can be found on Amazon. They are available in paperback and for Kindle.

Poth has started working on a sixth book tentatively titled “Things I wish …” — as in wish the author knew early in her career and wish things parents and students would know.

More information about Poth is available at rdene915.com.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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