“Where do you start when you are talking about one of the best teachers Watertown has ever had and one of the most talented individuals you have ever met?” asks former WHS basketball coach Dennis Gall in response to the recent death of longtime educator Mike Ries. “Mike was the best teacher I ever taught with,” says retired teacher Mark Bellum. “He was revered by the Mellette students and staff.”
From 1982 through 1999, hundreds of children enjoyed the magic of being a fourth grader in Mr. Ries’ classroom. His extraordinary commitment to the classroom and his unparalleled flair for engaging students helped him form unusually strong bonds with the youngsters entrusted to him. He rewarded students with jawbreakers and time in the reading loft and introduced them to silly classroom mascots. Each week he produced video newscasts for Mellette’s “K-Bear” station. Each year he drew an individual portrait of every student.
Known for his storytelling talent, his quick and irreverent wit, and his appreciation for harmless mischief, he devised nearly endless creative antics to capture students’ attention and help them remember the lessons he was delivering. One day he might demonstrate the length of human intestines by pulling fifteen feet of string out of his mouth; the next day he would have students prodding gray gelatin he had molded in the shape of a brain. He inspired several of his students to become teachers, a legacy that made him very proud.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ries taught golf to more than a generation of Watertown students. From 1985 through 1994 he was head coach of the Boys’ and the Girls’ Arrow Golf teams, and he was forever a fan of Arrow golf. In later years while golfing with friends on the local course, he often was approached by younger golfers excited to greet him and reminisce about the days when he had taught them golf.
His former classroom students still express reverence when they recall the man who brought so much humor, energy, and creativity into their lives. Susan Eide ’95 speaks for many when she says, “Mr. Ries was the best 4th grade teacher I could have imagined. He taught us to use a globe, a microscope, and our imaginations... That basement classroom in Mellette Elementary was probably one of the happiest places of my childhood... He made learning fun and encouraged each of us to develop our own ways of taking in and processing information, which was pretty innovative in the 1980s in Watertown.”
The recipient will have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and be an education major.
If you qualify, click the link below to apply
Mike Ries Memorial Scholarship