As Superintendent of the West Bend School District, Ted Neitzke is directly responsible for supporting the transformation of thousands of students into active and engaged citizens of the world.
Ted had a transformation of his own in middle school as he stepped off a bus into the wild world of a Riveredge summer camp.
“Riveredge for me is a place that is transformational. For the first time, I threw on waders, got into a pond, learned about the ecosystem, and learned about all the things in the water that I could not see with my own bare eyes. It just opened up my mind to all the different things in nature I was walking past every day.
Ted’s summers became ones filled with digging in the dirt, scooping up and examining wacky water critters, and pulling up logs and searching for signs of life.
“It set me on a direction where I became very exploratory, very curious about the world in which I lived. It’s one of the pinnacle experiences in my life that set me into education.”
Today, the lessons learned from these early transformative experiences affect not only the West Bend students Ted supports on a daily basis, but the thousands of kids, families, and adults touched by Riveredge each year. As Riveredge’s Board President, Ted is giving back and providing the time and visionary leadership needed to ensure Riveredge continues to touch lives today.
Perhaps most important, these experiences are shaping something even closer to Ted- his family. His children, Charlie and Grace, have been coming to Riveredge since they were 5.
“Now that 5 year old is 13 and gets upset if he has to miss part of a day of camp. And now they teach me about Riveredge. They’ll show me things I never saw before. We’ll come out in different seasons, and it’s just fun to watch them explore and take risks I would have loved to be taking when I was their age.
They understand that they’re a very small piece of a very big world and that when you come to Riveredge and you walk through this or you go the trails, or the river, or the ponds, or go to an event, you are participating in something bigger than you.”
Ted’s story is a perfect example of the old Riveredge mantra: “Everything is connected to everything.” Past to present. Generation to generation. Summer camper to future community leader.