Teaching Science, and a Whole Lot More
by Susan Tomases
George Ratermann ’79, P’10 is friendly, approachable, fast talking, and can be counted on to sport one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts. He’s also one of four alumni/ae on Landmark’s Board of Trustees. George came to Landmark in the “early days” from South Carolina for a summer after third grade. He remembers being “a bright and happy child” until school got to be “just too hard.” He was easily distracted, hid in the back of the classroom, and was panicked about being called on to read. A family friend had read an article by Landmark School founder, Charles Drake, and suggested that George be tested for a learning disability at a diagnostic center at Duke University. The results revealed that he had dyslexia.
An Introduction to Landmark School
Those summer days were hot and steamy on the third floor of Norrie House, now the Alexander Building, and George remembers the teachers being very committed and the academics both exhausting and exciting. He recalls, “All of our classes were one-on-one except for math. It was intense!” The payoff came quickly, and George was soon reaping the rewards of the hard work.
He returned twice more, in the summers between seventh and eighth grade, and after his sophomore year of high school, when he came down with Valley Fever and missed months of school. George and his parents worried that he was falling behind, but one summer at Landmark had him back on track and he graduated with his classmates as planned. “Landmark helped me become really self-aware. Early in my high school career I decided not to learn for a grade but for myself. And this is when learning really changed for me.”
Maximizing His Strengths
George founded and is now president of Ratermann Manufacturing, a national company headquartered in northern California with a large facility in Nashville, TN, serving customers in a variety of industries, including beverage, medical, cryogenic gases, liquified natural gas, and manufacturing to name a few. George holds several patents.
When asked about his favorite Landmark memory he struggles to select just one. “I can walk around the campus today and point to places and a memory comes flooding back where I had an ‘aha!’ moment or learned to work hard and accomplish what once seemed like impossible tasks, from math to writing.” Many of those memories were solidified through the support he received from Matt Rutter, who was a new teacher at the time and soon became George’s mentor. “I remember writing and rehearsing a poem called ‘Rolling Thunder’ with Matt, and every time I pass that location on campus happy memories come flooding back. Those were moments and places that changed my life.”
George and his wife, Dawn, have four daughters, two of whom have dyslexia. One of those daughters, Marie, graduated from Landmark in 2010 and learned about her own learning style and how dyslexia is about how you learn, not how intelligent you are. Marie has had many successes and is now carrying on the family legacy in more ways than one as a hard-working employee at Ratermann Manufacturing, where she serves as their marketing manager.
Recently, Rob Kahn, head of the Elementary •Middle School invited George to come to campus to share his experience with our eighth grade students. Sophie Wilson, head of the Middle School Science Department worked closely with George, who visited with science classes and created unique lessons for the students.
Ratermann says of his eighth-grade science lesson, “I handed out coins to the students and explained that there are two sides to every coin. I told them to develop both sides of the coin. Work on weaknesses and grow your strengths. You all have amazing gifts. Don’t just be aware of them but exploit them—work the heck out of them.”
When asked why he gives back to Landmark George says, “I am intellectually stimulated by the work we do on Landmark’s board. I’m amazed and impressed with our faculty and staff, and I get really excited about the work that Outreach is doing in schools around the country. I feel good about supporting this work.”
George taught the students about potential energy and how gas displaces oxygen. “We used liquid nitrogen to change the nature of an object, freezing flowers and bananas, and making gooey candy rock hard.”
Article originally published in The Lantern, Fall/Winter 2017-2018