Teacher Feature: Dean Ruff

After serving the past two years as the Technology Intervention Specialist at Old Trail, Dean Ruff recognized an opportunity to return to the classroom this year and jumped on it. 
As a result, he finds himself back in a place of familiarity, teaching fourth grade and working side-by-side with his fourth grade teaching partner, Susan Alexander. In all,  Mr. Ruff has been a teacher for 34 years, including the last 20 at OTS. Prior to his switch to the tech department, he had taught fourth grade at Old Trail for 17 years.
“Simply put, Dean knows how to motivate children,” said Sharon Winfrey, OTS Director of Technology. “He can find the simplest ways to generate ideas and exploration from students. Dean can take a toilet paper roll and turn it into a project! He can hand students a set of dice, cards or Lego pieces and motivate them to create a new game. 

“Dean is friendly and approachable, yet commands respect from his students,” Mrs. Winfrey continued.  “He is also the ultimate classroom manager; when he speaks in a quiet and level tone, students listen. I had the great pleasure of working closely with him for two years in the technology department. During that time, I learned a lot about what it takes to be a good teacher, and Dean’s caring attitude is at the top of the list.”

Mr. Ruff can trace his inspiration for becoming a teacher back to his childhood. “I had an amazing sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dockus. He used to always tell us, ‘If you want a great job, become a teacher.’ He made learning fun and I wanted to be a teacher ever since.”

Mr. Ruff loves teaching at Old Trail because of the amazing faculty he works with and the incredible support he has received from parents over the years. 

It is fun to run into past families and have them tell me what they remember most about their time at OId Trail,” he said. “It is funny what some remember because it’s rarely anything academic. More times than not, it’s something that the students did – like a field trip, an event or just something they thought was funny.“

Prior to his time in Ohio, Mr. Ruff lived and taught in Charleston, S.C. for 14 years, where he survived Hurricane Hugo and learned how to surf. “ I am a retired surfer,” he said. “I surfed for about 14 years while living in Charleston and still have the first surfboard I learned on.”  He’s also been involved in soccer – as a player, coach and referee – for 35 years and even attended the World Cup when it was last hosted by the U.S. in 1994.


Teacher Feature Fridays is our new series that aims to help the OTS community get to know our faculty better. On select Fridays throughout the school year, we will use this space to highlight some of the amazing individuals who make Old Trail such a distinctive place for children to learn and grow. 
Old Trail School is a private day school for preschool through grade eight students located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.