After 34 years as a professional educator, including the last 15 years as principal of the Stevens elementary school in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district, Ralph Rothacker has announced he will be retiring effective August 1.
"I am sad to think of leaving Stevens because this is a place where parents and teachers work together to create a culture for learning like no other,” says Rothacker. “Having had the opportunity to work in four different school districts, I can say with confidence that the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district is a very special place.”
Rothacker’s career began as an elementary teacher in Ballston Spa in 1978. He spent time as a middle school teacher in Ballston Spa and a high school science teacher in Albany before moving to the Cohoes school district, where he served as the middle school assistant principal for two years and the Van Schaick elementary principal for three years.
According to BH-BL superintendent Patrick McGrath, Rothacker is particularly known for his efforts to improve educational programs for elementary-age students. “Ralph has worked hard to bring 21st century technology and instructional techniques into Stevens classrooms. From finding money for more equipment to encouraging teachers to train fellow teachers in new techniques and approaches to learning, Ralph’s legacy includes making teachers feel comfortable trying new things to do our jobs better,” says McGrath.
Rothacker is also known for his willingness to risk his personal comfort if it will help students learn. Recently he volunteered to be suspended by ropes during a lesson in which students learned how pulleys can help us lift heavy weights. Each year as an incentive to keep Stevens students reading, he has also volunteered to do various stunts in the fall if enough students meet their reading goals over the summer. These stunts have included being dunked repeatedly in a dunking pool, dressing in special pajamas and kissing a pig, and sitting in a kiddie pool and becoming a human ice cream sundae with each child who read enough books over the summer having a chance to add a bit of gooey topping to his head or body.
A copy of the letter that Rothacker sent home with Stevens students to parents is available here.
The BH-BL Board of Education accepted Rothacker’s retirement at their meeting on May 28, and McGrath plans to begin the process of finding his replacement immediately. Parents and community members who would like to share their opinions on the qualities the school district should look for in a new principal should come to the Stevens PTA meeting at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, June 5 at the school. McGrath plans to lead a discussion about the new principal immediately after the PTA meeting.
The Stevens elementary school is located at 25 Lakehill Road in Ballston Lake. It currently serves approximately 415 students in grades K through 5.