PITTSBURG, Kan. – The College of Education at Pittsburg State University has chosen a dedicated administrator and an exceptional educator for its two annual service awards.
Randal Chickadonz, superintendent at Rose Hill USD 394 in Rose Hill, Kansas, was selected for the Distinguished Service Administrator Award.
Brian Rickard, an engineering and STEM teacher in grades 9-12 at Newton USD 373 in Newton, Kansas, was selected for the Distinguished Service Teacher.
The awards were presented at the College of Education Awards Ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at PSU.
Rickard earned a bachelor’s in technology education from PSU in 2005 and his master‘s in career and technical education in 2013. He has been a teacher for 15 years at Newton High School, where he also has served as an assistant baseball coach and assistant wrestling coach.
His innovation and the ways in which he challenges students to use their skills to help others is what sets him apart, his nominators said.
In 2009, he started an engineering program at Newton High School and has secured more than $40,000 in grant funding.
Rickard teaches an engineering design and development class, which gives students the opportunity to work in small groups to solve open-ended problems they choose. Students must first define and justify a problem before then designing, building, and testing a solution.
Past projects have ranged from a bike’s handlebars doubling as a lock to a walker that improves maneuverability.
In 2019, the class decided to help children with disabilities and split into teams to interview parents, caretakers, and therapists to learn more before developing ideas, mockups, and prototypes for three toy cars the children could drive with adaptations for their disabilities.
That year, he was designated a Master Teacher by Project Lead the Way and provided professional development to more than 100 teachers across the country.
Also that year, he led a team that organized the school’s first experiential learning day for 1,000 students that included 15 industry tours, small group sessions with 40 graduates, and 15 community service opportunities.
As a teacher mentor with the Kansas Center for Career and Technical Education, he has led sessions and workshops at regional and national conferences and has been what his KCCTE director described as a servant leader.
Chickadonz earned three degrees from PSU: a bachelor’s in education in 1988, a master’s in education in 1992, and an EDs in administration in 1995.
For many years he taught as a math and physical education teacher at Seneca (Missouri) High School, Columbus High School, and Arkansas City High School, as well as serving as a coach and assistant coach in several sports. In 1997, he joined the Rose Hill School District and served as an assistant principal, principal, and athletic director before becoming superintendent in 2003.
In that role, he made a commitment to advancing the district’s relationship with Butler Community College to provide additional opportunities to students.
In 2010, he and former Butler President Jackie Vietti established an Early College Academy Pathway that allows juniors and seniors in high school the chance to earn an associate degree while completing their high school diploma.
He built classrooms and science labs on the west end of the “Butler Wing” of the high school, and a new technology building houses the Early College Construction Technology Pathway that launched last year.
From 2010 when the first Health Science Academy with seven students began, through today with more than 200 students now enrolled in 11 different ECA pathways, his partnership with the college created a unique model for student success.
In the past five years, 384 high school and home school seniors have received their Butler associate degrees just a few days before receiving their high school diplomas.
Chickadonz also has served on numerous boards at the local, state, and regional level.
Butler President Kimberly Krull said Chickadonz described him as a strong leader who empowers others and is focused on being a difference-maker.
The awards were presented by Dean of the College of Education Jim Truelove.