By: Jake Romaine
A teacher, a fisherman and carpenter, a Tufts graduate and a people person. These are just a few of the titles that can be used to describe Patrick Riley, a 61 year old Sharon resident and current physics teacher at Oliver Ames High School.
Above all these things Mr. Riley is someone who likes to connect with others. “I just try to be an actual person to them instead of a teacher with barriers. I care about them as people,” Mr. Riley said about what some of the most important things are to him as a teacher. He also loves the subject he teaches.
Mr. Riley hasn’t followed the normal path to becoming a teacher. He held a few different occupations before becoming a teacher, including spending time out at sea as a fisherman. Mr. Riley described life as a fisherman by saying “I figure regular life is good and bad. That life is miserable and wonderful.” He also said that the experience was a “great adventure as a young man.” Life was full of extremes during his time as a fisherman. His next chapter was similar in that nature.
The same could be said of his time as a carpenter. It was an interest of his but it had it’s difficulties. “It was physically quite difficult and the ups and downs of the business cycle,” Riley said of what made the job tough.
Both of these jobs also lacked something that is very important to Mr. Riley. They could be a little isolating during the work day. Mr. Riley said, “Neither one was heavy on people contact so I think I was a little missing some of that.” There aren’t many jobs better to jump into than teaching if you want to work with other people.
Mr. Riley also has a somewhat unique story of how he became a teacher. He first came about the idea when working on a roof for a carpentry job. “I came home from work one day and my wife showed me an article in the Boston Globe about the shortage of science teachers,” Riley told me. It was because of this, he said, that there became more of a pathway for science majors to get jobs in education. He has been teaching in Easton since, 9 years at Easton Middle School- when it included ninth graders- and nine years at Oliver Ames.
Mr. Riley teaches only ninth grade physics. When asked if he enjoys physics, Riley said that “Physics is kinda fun to teach because it’s very physical. It makes sense even if the math challenges people. It’s very structured and it’s very real. I can do demonstrations that are reality based.” Mr. Riley enjoys being able to not just explain but demonstrate his lessons and physics is a perfect subject for that style, being it is not too abstract.
Mr. Riley is happy teaching freshman but said he wouldn’t mind teaching upperclassmen as well. He explained “It’s nice to at least see you guys in the building and see how you change.” He isn’t there to only teach them. He does a great job of that but also takes the time to get to know his students and this continues throughout their time at Oliver Ames.
Outside of school, Mr. Riley has many interests. Mr. Riley enjoys bird watching, skiing and biking as a few of his hobbies. He has two kids. His daughter just recently graduated from UMASS in the spring and his son is currently in college studying physics. His wife is an emergency room nurse. He also has two keeshonds. He is an avid Bruins and Patriots fan.
One of Mr. Riley’s hobbies that is quite impressive is his photography skills. Mr. Riley takes a lot of photos and his photo page on Flickr can be reached here. The page has a wide range of artistic photos.
Mr. Riley also has a few places that he thinks would be fun to visit. “I’d like to see Hawaii, Costa. And as far as skiing goes, maybe Europe or out to Utah” he told me.
And for all the science fans out there, when Mr. Riley was asked who he would meet if he could meet anyone – alive or dead – Mr. Riley said Isaac Newton. He means it when he says he’s into physics.