It happens several times a year, and it doesn’t matter if it takes place in the classroom or on the gridiron.
Wheeling Park High School teacher and football coach Rick Marsh said one of the true joys of his profession is that moment when a student or a student athlete achieves a goal that they weren’t sure they could accomplish.
“Every year there are a few kids who do something that they didn’t know they could do, and it’s an amazing thing to witness,” he said. “A lot of times it inspires them to see what else they can accomplish, and, as a teacher and a coach, it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. It makes you happy for the student, and it also lets you know that what you are doing as an educator is working.”
Although his father was a teacher, and his sister and brother ended up in academic fields, Marsh didn’t initially plan on a career in education. In fact, he didn’t become a teacher until he was 30 years old.
Marsh graduated from Wheeling Park High School in 1987 and from West Liberty University in 1992 with a degree in administration. From there, he became the operations manager at Oglebay, and he served in the capacity for nearly a decade. His work at Oglebay resulted in Marsh discovering his true calling.
“A big part of my job there was hiring,” he said. “I was hiring a lot of Wheeling Park students for part-time jobs and summer work. I found that I really liked working with young people. I enjoyed it, and I thought I could be more of a positive influence and role model for young people in education. It seemed like a no-brainer.”
Marsh then earned a social studies degree in 2001 from West Liberty, and he did his student teaching at Triadelphia Middle School. Following his graduation, he taught for a year at Wheeling Middle School. He then taught at Warwood School and Bridge Street Middle School. Marsh found his professional home in 2003 when he became a history teacher at Wheeling Park High School.
Marsh has accomplished a lot in his nearly 15 years at Wheeling Park High School. He earned his master’s degree in 2008 from West Liberty, and he’s also a National Board Certified teacher. In 2010, Marsh became the chair of the Wheeling Park High School History Department.
Marsh is currently the linebackers coach for the Wheeling Park High School football team, and he has been involved with the program since 2003. With the exception of head coach Chris Daugherty, he is the longest-serving member of the Patriot coaching staff. He was also a Wheeling Park track and field coach for 12 years.
Marsh finds his work at Wheeling Park High School deeply rewarding. He enjoys his work as a department chair, and he likes collaborating with both teachers and administrators. However, working with students as a teacher and working with student athletes as a coach gives him the greatest sense of accomplishment.
Marsh said his approach to teaching is the basically the same as his style of coaching. He said he sees both the classroom and the field of play as environments in which young people learn.
“I coach in the classroom and teach on the football field,” Marsh said. “I work with young people, and the goal is to inspire them to learn and achieve the most that they can. Whether it is history or football, the objective is to work with them so that they learn to the best of their ability. What I ultimately want for a student or a student athlete is for them to be prepared for what they will face in life after Wheeling Park High School.”
And, Marsh was forced to face some serious life issues of his own during the 2016-2017 school year. Marsh suffered a pair of what he described as “mini strokes” on consecutive days last year, and it has since prompted him to be more mindful of his own health and wellbeing.
“The first stroke lasted 15 seconds, and I had no use of the right side of my body,” he said. “The second one lasted 15 minutes, and it put me in the hospital for the next week…
“It was life changing,” Marsh added. “I believe it happened for a reason. I’ve changed my diet, and I’ve gotten healthy. I love my family, I love teaching, I love coaching, and I can’t do those things if I’m not taking care of myself.”
Marsh lives in Bethlehem with his wife Shannon, a first-grade teacher at Bethlehem Elementary School, and their three sons. Their 12-year-old son Jared is a student at Wheeling Middle School, while sons Quinn, 9, and E.J., 6, are students at Bethlehem.
Photo: Wheeling Park history teacher and football coach Rick Marsh is shown at a recent practice with Patriot Christian Tripp.