Eliot, Hemingway, Poe, Emerson, Tolstoy and Thoreau are alive in R.J. Musselman's English class. The famous classic authors line the walls of his classroom and become as familiar and loved as each student that take part in his most remarkable English class. For 34 years R.J. Musselman, a high school teacher from St Edmond's, has been consistently inspiring students to love the written word.
It is quite evident that he has the heart and the respect of his students; it is not too hard to figure out why- not only does he love his job and has a passion for what he does, he truly loves and believes in each student. We here at Fort Dodge Today are honored to present to you a humble teacher quietly inspiring the next generation to fall in love with literature.
What do you teach and how long have you been teaching?
R. J. Musselman teaches English literature to St. Edmond's juniors and seniors.
I teach English to juniors and seniors. I've been teaching for 34 years, 32 at St. Edmond High School.
Where are you from? How long have you been in the Fort Dodge area?
I was born and raised in Fort Dodge, then left for ten years or so. I was overseas in the Army, followed by college and my first teaching job. Wanting to get closer to family, I found this job.
Do you have children?
Mary and I have two grown children, a 27 year old son living in Minneapolis and working as a paramedic, and a 24 year old daughter nearly finished with college at the University of Northern Iowa. Both are still single, but my son is engaged. I also have a nearly 88 year old mother who lives and independently and a brother.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a teacher?
I became an English teacher by default. A high school English teacher convinced me that I could become a writer. I tried but it didn't work for me. Since I loved literature but couldn't write, I decided I might like teaching it.
At the end of the year what is the greatest goal or accomplishment you would like to see come to fruition in your class?
What I want most to for my students is that they fall in love with the written word. If they accomplish that, a lot of good things will follow.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Of course I enjoy reading and writing. After that everything I like to do is done outside, hiking, camping, fishing, bicycling, cross-country skiing- the silent sports. Then too there are activities that are both hard work and fun, cutting and splitting firewood and gardening.
What makes St. Edmond such a great place to teach?
That's easy- the students. They are a lot of fun to teach, appreciative of my efforts to teach them something, and very good learners. Behind the students are their parents (many of whom I've known as students). They do the major work in making my students who they are, then pay me to enjoy their creations. I'm lucky.
Can you recall a funny or memorable story you'd like to share from your years as a teacher?
Nearly every period of the day something funny happens or is said (nobody has a better sense of humor than a junior or senior in high school). Memorable things would include the tragedies we shouldered together. But a memorable incident that typifies the kind of student who goes here would be this. An entire class traveled to my acreage twenty miles from school late one night and teepeed my place. But they left a note asking that I not get mad. Then they listed their names and phone numbers to call if I wanted help cleaning up.
Any English tips to share?
You've heard about the three "R's." I have the "four R's." Read, write, ruminate, and rusticate.
Students Speak Out
What do you enjoy most about English with Mr. Musselman?
Sam Kelso- Mr. Musselman treats us like equals. He makes us feel like our ideas and beliefs are just as valid as his.
Alex Trevino- I can discuss just about any piece of literature with him. He is well read.
Taryn O'Tool- His teaching is fun and it's easy to pay attention. If you have any questions you can always ask for help.
Doug Steinkamp- The way he relates literature to life situations.
Teresa McLoughlin- You can learn a little bit about every subject from his class
Sam Swanberg- We can be open and say what's on our mind. There is a lot of dialogue, it's fun and we learn from it.