Pin it!
Google Plus

Richard Caulfield, retired elementary and middle school teacher, Indianapolis, Indiana


Richard Caulfield
Retired elementary and middle school teacher
Indianapolis, Indiana
April 2002

Before retiring in 1995, Dick Caulfield was an elementary and middle school teacher in Indiana for 31 years. Caulfield notes that he was bitten by the teaching bug while working during the early 1960s as a volunteer in a summer-school program for inner-city children. He subsequently quit his sales job and became a full-time elementary school teacher in 1964. As an elementary teacher in inner-city Indianapolis, he taught all subjects except physical education, but he began to specialize in teaching mathematics and science because his fellow teachers sought his help in those areas. He decided to become exclusively a mathematics teacher after attending an NSF-supported summer institute in 1969 at Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis. During the 1970–1971 school year, he moved to a junior high school in suburban Indianapolis. This switch from an inner-city environment to a suburban environment was an enormous cultural change for him. Although he thoroughly enjoyed his years as an elementary school teacher in inner-city Indianapolis, he was initially amazed to find his new fellow teachers working together, planning syllabi, and discussing instructional issues to a degree that just did not happen in his earlier teaching experience. For the first time, he felt that he was part of a community of professionals rather than an isolated individual.

Caulfield's enthusiasm for teaching never waned. His enthusiasm was sustained in part by colleagues who took their jobs seriously and thought of themselves as dedicated professionals. In 1991, he spent a summer as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. This experience revitalized him at a time when he was just beginning to feel a bit burned out. Being around so many other enthusiastic, highly motivated, and excellent teachers was invigorating.

In 1981, Caulfield became the chair of the mathematics department at his school. In his new position, he was expected to be an instructional leader and new opportunities for professional development were made available to him. He notes that he had the good fortune to teach in a school and in a school district that had high expectations for its teachers and teacher leaders. He insists that this ingredient was important in making him a successful teacher.

Caulfield's biggest challenge during his career came not from external sources—high-stakes tests, administrators, or parents—but from the difficulty he had in putting into practice the many good ideas that he gained from attending professional meetings, reading journal articles, and reflecting on his own teaching. He reflects that "Following the philosophy of teaching and learning I had come to accept was hard."

When asked what advice he would give to beginning teachers, Caulfield suggests that it is important to constantly "say to yourself, 'I need to keep growing and I need to take advantage of what professional organizations have to offer.' Attend meetings, read journals, meet regularly with your colleagues. [Above all] recognize the need to grow and keep yourself alive as a teacher." Caulfield insists that he has "spent my life doing what I wanted to do. I wouldn't trade any of it."



Having trouble running our Java apps? Get help here.

Your feedback is important! Comments or concerns regarding the content of this page may be sent to Thank you.