Teacher Feature: Mr. Munsell

Lauren Collis, Features Reporter


You might have seen Mr. Richard Munsell in the weight room instructing his strength and body class, or you might have seen him coaching on the sidelines at a football game. However, Mr. Munsell hasn’t always worked at Colonial Forge, or even at another public school for that matter. Before getting the job here he worked at a juvenile detention center in a remote area of northern Pennsylvania where dodging punches from the students was routine.

“[There were] a lot of inner city kids there with drug and alcohol issues, were members of a gang, and who participated in violent crimes,” Munsell said.

Due to the nature of the kids, he refocused his physical education classes on behavioral skills to help students become productive members of society once they were released from the facility.

“The kids had a lot of trust issues so you had to work on building relationships and getting kids ready to transition back into the real world, so it was very different from the public school system. It was a lot more about personal relationships than specific education,” Munsell said.

The environment that he now works in is a stark contrast in comparison to the adverse one that he had become accustomed to experiencing. There were a lot more fights and altercations between the students than is usually to be expected at a public school.

“The environment could be hostile. You have to be hyper aware of your surroundings and settings and any interactions. It could be as innocent as kids flashing gang signs and a fight erupts. It’s a much less stressful environment in a public school setting,” Munsell said.

Mr. Munsell’s job required him to become invested in the students lives that he was helping, making it gratifying to see the students he taught turn their lives around once they were placed back into the real world.

“Once you work with kids that have been there for a long time you get to see the growth and development of the individual,” Munsell said.

He was able to experience the fulfillment of witnessing his students flourish and, when released from the detention center, continue to prosper on the real streets amongst the temptation that they had once succumbed to.

“Then you’re just rooting for their success in getting removed from their streets and their gangs or whatever they were involved in, like drugs or alcohol, you see that growth and development and it’s just very rewarding,” Munsell said.

However, the disadvantage of his job was that not every kid gets clean and turns their lives around for the better.

“There’s also the downside where you see them continue to fail or you read about them in the paper afterwards. There are several students that I had that were shot and killed. It’s very upsetting because it’s a constant cycle of that and it can be hard on you,” Munsell said.

While working there, he was able to set up a sports co-op with one of the local public schools near the juvenile detention center and, as long as the students were on good behaviors, were able to participate in sports with other students outside of the school they attended. For some of the kids it was their first time competing in an organized sport.

“It was really rewarding to see the kids that had been in gangs since they were teenagers participating in sports and getting to see them build relationships with some kids in the area and really enjoying themselves,” Munsell said.

As strenuous and difficult as his old job used to be, Mr. Munsell is grateful for the experience that he received during his time there.

“It benefited me as a teacher my experiences of the past, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to be here and I really enjoy the kids,” Munsell said.