Rich Korb is an author and educator with 34 years experience working with youth in traditional and alternative schools, residential facilities, and juvenile detention centers. He has also served as an athletic coach. Rich is known as the “Behavior Answer Man”. He shares his wisdom through Pioneer Education Consulting.
As an Educator and Administrator he has supported youth in foster care to breakdown barriers to learning that include special education, school disruptions, and risk of drop out. Rich operates by the motto “creativity is necessary for success”. He says there is no youngster he can’t reach and no situation he won’t take on. This belief system has lead to his success with youth and is the foundation for his six step approach to youth engagement. The six steps are:
- LISTEN. “Listen to understand a young person’s heart and hurts and the rest is easy”, he said.
- Create obtainable goals.
- Hold youth accountable.
- Celebrate their successes.
- Process with them when things go wrong.
- Let them create the solutions.
Rich served as Education, Vocational, and Special Education Director at Jubilee Ranch where he created an academic environment with school bells, a rotating schedule, text books, and a library. Jubilee Ranch housed youth from all over the country who were unable to read, diagnosed with learning disabilities, had severe behavior issues, and were involved in the juvenile justice system. After a year of housing and education at Jubilee Ranch, students were able to return home and their academic credit was passed on to their home schools. For many youth at this male residential facility, the alternative was prison. Jubilee Ranch staff served as foster dorm parents and offered support that resulted in many youth deciding to remain at Jubilee Ranch until high school graduation. These young men obtained academic and athletic success at a facility that was supported financially by sponsors. Jubilee Ranch was not a state run facility. Jubilee Ranch allowed for outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and football. Football provided structure, guidance, and allowed youth to develop socially and learn to work together. The young men also benefited from knowing that someone cared enough about them to give money for them to live in a place that allowed them to transform and triumph.
I asked Rich how foster parents can become educational advocates for their foster children and his recommendation is to get them tested because you need to be able to start where they are. This is especially important if foster parents don’t have school records when a young person enters their care. After knowing where young people are academically, foster parents must be willing to get and stay involved to ensure the child receives the support and services needed.
Rich understands that building trust can be challenging but advises foster parents and educators working with youth in foster care to first show youth that you care and then tell them that you care.
He says that healthy relationships are built when adults are firm, fair, and purposeful.
- Firm – make sure young people understand your rules and boundaries
- Fair – be willing to negotiate: express your love and concern for them
- Purposeful – be clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing
Whether in a home or academic setting, adults must listen to hear what young people want and need, be willing to negotiate, provide incentives and rewards, and encourage young people to think critically. According to Rich, “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.
Rich says that we must understand that not all kids are self-starters and almost every kid is disruptive or defiant at some point. His goal is to reach them where they are and move them forward. He wants them to become self-starters by thinking critically and taking chances. He promotes life skills development including financial literacy and shopping. He wants to see all youth become their own advocates and create their own solutions.
Rich served as Vice Principal at a traditional high school that was responsible for educating sexually aggressive youth some of whom were in foster care. He connected immediately with school staff and foster parents to set up monitoring and implement safety precautions in addition to academic support and even arranged home tutoring when necessary. Currently Rich serves as a History Teacher at Prosser High School.
Rich practices what he preaches. His bond with young people and positive classroom management techniques led students with behavior and emotional challenges and academic disabilities, at Skyline High School, to work without any adult supervision for an 80 minute class period during Rich’s absence. Their reward was a catered lunch and public recognition. A newspaper article was written to commend the students for their maturity and accomplishments. You can learn more about Rich’s classroom success in his book “Motivating Defiant and Disruptive Students To Learn”.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.