The new Waxahachie Junior High School principal, Ryder Appleton, has a family tree covered with educators and Waxahachie roots that run deep.
“I actually attended eighth grade in this building,” said Ryder, a Waxahachie High School graduate (1991), of the junior high campus on Brown Street.
“I am going to serve kids wherever I am, but to have the opportunity to work in a community where I grew up is priceless,” said Ryder, explaining the satisfaction that comes with knowing the families of his students.
“It is such a positive thing when you know their (the students’) families,” added his father, Ron Appleton, also a WHS graduate (1960), as well as an educator.
Prior to a career with WISD that began in the mid-1960s, Ron spent his life from birth to high school graduation in Waxahachie.
“I attended high school in the T.C. Wilemon building that is now home to Waxahachie Global High,” Ron said.
Ryder spent several years in the business world and eight years as an educator before taking his current position at WJHS. His jobs as instructor include working as an agriculture teacher for another district early in his career and later teaching courses in science, chemistry and A+ and N+ (computer networking) at WHS from 2002-05.
Also, during that same time period, he was employed as the network administrator for the Ninth Grade Academy and WHS.
Ryder’s experience as an administrator includes two years (2005-2007) as an assistant principal at Ennis High School.
Ryder began his career in education as an agriculture teacher, following the path of his father, Ron, whose career as an educator began in the agriculture department and led to a position in administration.
In 1964, Ron took his first teaching job as an agriculture instructor at East Texas State University, followed by a year as the agriculture science teacher at Sulphur Springs High School. He then returned to Waxahachie, where he held the position of agriculture teacher at WHS from 1966 to 1985.
The next school year, he took the position of WHS assistant principal. He held that position for nine years, followed by 10 more years as the associate principal, which is the second lead principal on campus.
Although Ron retired in 2004, he continues to work for WISD as a substitute administrator and substitute teacher.
Ryder’s mother (Ron’s wife), Brenda Appleton, also retired in 2004 from a long career in education. Her career included teaching in Italy and Maypearl and two years as the WISD director of food services.
After staying home for several years to raise her children, she returned to teaching, spending 27 years at Midlothian ISD before retiring. With bachelor’s degrees in both English and home economics and a master’s degree in reading, Brenda taught English, computer keyboarding, home economics and other subjects at the sixth- through eighth-grade level.
Ryder’s uncle (Ron’s brother), Stanley Appleton, was an agriculture teacher in Grand Saline for 11 years.
Ryder’s wife, Renee, is a fourth-grade teacher at Shackelford Elementary.
“We are very proud of Ryder and Renee, their career, their family and the lives they will touch here,” said Ron.
“I hope they’ll give their whole career to this district,” Ron said of Ryder and Renee and their positions with WISD.
“None of us became educators to raise test scores,” said Ryder. “We became educators to help kids.”
“You have to have the heart for kids,” Ron agreed.
As a high school student at WHS, Ryder was the school mascot, a class officer and the senior class president. He was also a member of the basketball team, honor society and Interact Club and a very active member of FFA, receiving national awards.
During high school, Ron was active in FFA and “agriculture dominated” his days as a student at WHS.
“It (agriculture in high school) was one of the things that motivated me to be an ag teacher,” reports Ron, who received the “Farm Boy of the Year” award from the Waxa-hachie Jaycees in 1959.
While in college, Ron was interested in either a career in medicine or a career in education — agriculture education, in particular.
“My friend, Dr. Tennery, said I made a better choice,” said Ron of his decision to become a teacher instead of a doctor.
“I wouldn’t trade my career in education for anything. I can’t imagine having taken a different career path than the opportunity to serve kids,” said Ron, who noted that he expressed these same sentiments in a speech he gave to his WHS class of 1960 classmates at their 45th anniversary celebration in 2005.
It was recently determined by the WISD school board that the new agriculture building will be named after Ron Appleton in a dedication ceremony that will take place in January.
“It is something you never expect,” said Ron of the event.
“I am very humbled and honored that WISD is naming this building after me,” said Ron, who noted that, as a substitute teacher, he has already taught in the new building.
“It’s cool,” said Ryder of the fact that a building is being named after his father.
“I’m really looking forward to the dedication of the building in January,” said Ron, who expressed his appreciation that “the district would do this for me.”
As a substitute, Ron has recently had the opportunity to work at several different campuses in several different roles.
“Our kids are in good hands here,” said Ron, complimenting the quality of the education WISD students are receiving and the high caliber of the district’s staff.
“It’s the heart that I see,” Ron reported with satisfaction, noting that he has two grandchildren who are students at Shackelford Elementary.
“I don’t know of any other profession where there is more of an impact on people’s lives. Not only what you say, but how you conduct yourself as an example,” said Ron, who pointed out that children and teens are so impressionable and the tremendous responsibility teachers and administrators have to be good role models.
“It’s an awesome responsibility,” agreed Ryder, “but that’s the part of it that I embrace the most.
“Teachers are true heroes. They are magicians,” said Ryder, who added, “The magic happens in the classroom.”
Ron and Ryder agree that administration, food personnel, custodians and other staff are all there as support services so that teachers can carry out their job with the students in their care.
“We (support staff) are here for what happens in those classrooms,” said Ryder.
What makes the junior high level so unique?
“They’re growing and changing, some of them almost daily, physically and mentally,” said Ryder of WJHS students. “It’s the equivalent of building a house.”