Mr. Weyker brings acceptance to OHS


Photo by Ananya Thekkemelepatt

Richard Weyker, social studies teacher, shows off his avocado socks.

Ananya Thekkemelepatt, News Editor

OHS is incredibly fortunate to have teachers that can inspire students and guide them to becoming more educated individuals. Richard Weyker, government and economics teacher, is one of these people, giving the students at OHS a role model to learn from.

Dedicated to his own career, Weyker emphasizes that doing something you are eager about is what is most important when figuring out what you want to do for a career.

“When I was 15, at a family reunion, very successful types [of people], every single one of them had this look of fatigue and detachment,” Weyker said. “Looking at the toll of a life of sitting behind a desk and doing something purely for monetary gain made me realize that if I did one thing with my life, I had to be passionate about it.

After seeing some of his family members being stuck and stagnant in their careers, he started exploring what he was passionate about to avoid the same fate. Becoming a teacher was his solution.

“I really enjoyed the process of learning something and figuring out how to communicate that with the class,” Weyker said. “I went from being pathologically afraid to speak in front of the class when all of a sudden I started giving presentations in high school. I don’t know what it was but I just started to love it.”

His love for teaching was based on his belief and admiration for the education system and its impact.

“I believe very much in the education system, I believe very much in helping kids, that’s when you can really make a difference,” Weyker said. “So that desire to do something that mattered coupled with something I found out I had a knack for early on is why I decided to get into teaching.”

Weyker’s belief in the system came from witnessing firsthand how it helped his parents create their future.

“Both my parents grew up in very low socioeconomic households and it was through the education system that my dad was able to work his way [up] and get a PhD,” Weyker said. “My dad’s an engineer, my mom’s an occupational therapist and it was the education system that allowed that.”

However, seeing the pros of the system has not stopped Mr. Weyker from acknowledging the system’s cons.

“There’s no way you can work your way through college anymore; there are elements of the system that have become extraordinarily dysfunctional,” Weyker said. “There has been this obsession with reforming education that oftentimes just makes things worse.”

But instead of being pessimistic or hopeless about the state of our education system, he remains a strong believer of it and hopes to use his classroom as an example of its positive attributes.

“There’s certain jobs that if they disappeared overnight the whole thing would just fall apart, farmers are there…and I believe educators are there too,” Weyker said. “As flawed as the system is, it is still a vital part of society without which nothing we have would be possible without an educated population.” 

Teaching any subject requires a lot of love for it, especially ones as subjective and opinion-based as government and economics, and Weyker has made sure his passion for his subjects are translated into the classroom.

“For me, government and economics deals with so many of the important questions of humanity and society and how we’re organized and they’re so relevant to our lives so I just found those subjects incredibly interesting to study,” Weyker said. “I grew up in a very political family so it was something I was exposed to a lot as a kid.”

But with an increase in polarization and partisanship in our society regarding politics, teaching these subjects takes extra care and sensitivity.

“I have never put this much emphasis as I do now on encouraging people to look at both sides,” Weyker said. “It’s so important for people to educate themselves on multiple perspectives and I never put quite as much emphasis on that until the last couple of years…it’s something that kids need to hear.”

The media and the internet have made this even more difficult, especially with how anyone can make biased claims, and those biases spill into the classroom amongst students.

“The way that modern media, especially social media, works is that you have this proliferation of toxic ideas and outright lies and it means that I will say something that normally wouldn’t be controversial, but I know I’ll be stepping on some people’s toes,” Weyker said. “I’ve never in my life seen so many people, so many kids with so many opinions…I want students to appreciate that and I want students to learn to just have a conversation.”

With this in mind, his classroom has become one that is heavily reliant on conversation and debate, inviting all sorts of opinions and ideologies.

“I want to instill in every one of my students that everyone, no matter how far off they are, has something to teach you, has a perspective they can offer you and you can learn something,” Weyker said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to agree with them, but at least you’ll have a better understanding of one person’s perspective and the world as a whole.”

Weyker slowly realized the importance of different viewpoints during his junior year of high school as he ventured into the world of debate.

“I did speech and debate in high school and it really made me appreciate how little I understood about the world… you’re just exposed to all these different ideas, all these different perspectives,” Weyker said. “That inspired me to delve deeper…to really understand what my opinion really is.”

But as much as his high school experience influenced the way he is as a high school teacher, Weyker also draws from non-academic influences that have built his character.

“The thing that really impacted my life more than anything else was doing taekwondo,” Weyker said. “I learned so much about what it really meant to build those friendships…what it meant to overcome obstacles. I learnt what it means to be a leader.”

Taekwondo, a Korean form of martial arts, allowed him to break through barriers that seemed daunting and almost impossible before. 

“It took years and years of dedication,” Weyker said. “Sixth grade, very anxious kid, not a whole lot of self esteem, not very athletic…but by freshman year of high school suddenly I was the senior ranking student in the class, I was winning sparring tournaments…it made me the person I am today.” 

With all these influences and growing understanding of our world, Weyker stands as an amazing example of what a great role model a teacher can be for people, and the students of OHS.

“I wasn’t always the smartest person in the room but I was usually the most passionate person in the room,” Weyker said.