The Difference Maker: Jason Ritter

DSC_0039By Andy Sidel and Nathan Loibl

The following are interviews with Jason Ritter’s wife, Audra Ritter, as well as teachers, about Ritter and his legacy at Legend. Read the entire story in the Feb. 5 issue of The Forum.

Audra Ritter

Q: Did you feel the support from the Titan family during the tough times?

A: Family is definitely the word to use – Legend embraced us during that tough time, providing so much love & support to Jason, and our whole family. Legend was Jason’s ‘home away from home’ and he loved the Titan family.

Q:  How did people from the community come to together to help your family?

A: We were truly blessed by the community and Legend in so many big and small ways – whether in mass at the football field fundraiser and Fields of Faith, or also individual families making us meals, sending notes of encouragement, dropping off Star Wars inspirations, giving Jason rides, snow shoveling, dog-sitting, & babysitting to name some.

Q: What was the mood during the fundraiser on the football field known as the Ritter Bash?

A: I think Jason would have stayed all night on that field with the students if he could have! He got so much energy and support from being around his students and the fundraiser night was all that and more. It was definitely a mood of family and support; a real sense of togetherness. Seeing all the students, families, and teachers there supporting us was wonderful – shaved heads and all!

Q: What is Lincoln like today?

A: Lincoln turned 4 years old in January. He goes to preschool at Parker Montessori. He has just started really getting into Legos, and loves building space ships and cars. He is getting tall measuring in the 75th percentile now for height and is always on the go. He is very imaginative and likes to tell some long tales of action-packed adventures. He is a lot of fun. I know when he is older he will truly appreciate all the memories and stories about his dad that students & friends have written down for him. Even now he has the children’s books that the basketball team gave him with their pictures and stories in the front covers shortly after Jason passed that Lincoln loves to see and talk about.

Q: Do you still see the Jason’s impact at Legend?

A: Jason was a part of Legend from the very beginning when the school opened and helped start the Legend Family at its core. He was so involved in different areas of Legend from athletics to government, and connected with so many students and teachers at Legend, that I’m sure his impact and spirit resonates in the halls there still today.

Q: What characteristics made Jason the man that people remember?

A: Jason had such a way of connecting with people, especially his students. He was fun, energetic, and positive, which made him a joy to be around. I think his energy and spirit inspired students to work hard and work together, whether it was in his classes, on the basketball court, or in student government.

Q: What is one word you would use to describe Jason?

A: Passionate – Jason was passionate about teaching, so proud of his students engaged in learning and especially his teaching accomplishments when his AP class did so well on the AP test. Jason was passionate about Legend– he was a Titan all the way, down there on the football field with the students doing pushups for each touchdown! “We Are Legend!” Jason was passionate about living life to the fullest – giving 100% effort to the causes and people he loved.

Tina Stroman

Q: How did Jason RItter’s contributions to Legend affect you?

A: Jason’s contributions to Legend affected me greatly since he had a way of establishing a high standard for all of us. He was involved in everything; therefore, it made all of us want to be involved as much as possible too. His mark is just about everywhere around Legend.

Q: What was your relationship with Jason Ritter?

A: I met Jason through my husband, Kurt. I wasn’t yet a teacher at Legend when the school first opened. However, I got to know Jason through Kurt since they were both on the core team. I also got to know Jason through some friends of ours since they lived right next door from himself and Audra. Jason and I often took the same classes in the summer, so we got to know each other that way too. He was always one that WOW’d everyone. His great big smile and positivity were so contagious.

Q: Is there a personal memory or a memory of Jason Ritter at school that has stuck with you?

A: I think my fondest memory of Jason is knowing that the neighborhood kids would often go and knock on his door and say “Can Jason play?” There wasn’t an age that he didn’t impact- small kids loved him just as much as we did.

Q: How quickly did Ritter make an impact on you life?

A: Jason’s impact on this entire community was immediate. He threw himself 100% into Parker and Legend. His number one thing was PEOPLE. That’s what I loved about him.

Q: What characteristics made Jason Ritter the person he was?

A: As I said before, people mattered more than anything to Jason. Relationships were the key. He truly believed that there was nothing more important than making people feel important and special. His ability to connect with every type of person was incredible. Plus, that enthusiasm and energy were amazing.

Q: In your words, why it is important to remember Jason Ritter?

A: It’s important to remember Jason. He is the kind of person that makes others want to be better. I always think about those certain people that inspire me to become better every single day. When I think of becoming a better person, I think of Jason and his incredible servant heart and love of life. Those inspiring people live on in every moment of every day. I think it’s important celebrate people that represent all that’s good in life.

Q: What was it like around school before & after Ritter’s passing?

A: When Jason passed away, it was so sad and yet beautiful at the same time. It was sad to know that we lost someone great, but it was truly beautiful to see everyone come together to grieve, to celebrate, and to truly care for one another. Kids wrote letters to Jason on the whiteboards in classrooms and in the library. They laughed as they remembered the crazy and fun times with him; they cried as they expressed true gratitude to him for making them feel important and special. It was one of the hardest days at school and yet one of the most beautiful. I will never forget it.

Q: What is one word that you would use to describe Jason Ritter and his legacy?

A: Smile is my word to describe Jason and his legacy. Sometimes as I walk through these halls, I can feel the excitement and joy in people- it can put a smile on your face. In those moments, I join the excitement with a smile on MY face knowing that Mr. Ritter truly has footprints all over this great school.

Jay Zimmerman

Q: How did his contributions to Legend affect you?

A: Ritter made me a better person—He always taught me to be a better teacher. He promoted hard work and dedication.

Q: What was your relationship with Jason Ritter?

A: We were best friends. We would play Guitar Hero, go on double dates, spend time at the lake house, and just hang out. We were “buds”.

Q: Is there a personal memory or a memory of Jason Ritter at school that has stuck with you?

A: Ritter dressed up like Britney Spears and came out in a silver dress and completely embarrassed himself in front of the entire school. However, it was for a good cause. He loved to act silly and be a kid.

Q: How quickly did he make an impact on you life?

A: From the first day I met him. I wanted to make the comment at a meeting and I wasn’t ready. He stood up and made the comment while I was thinking about it. From that day forward, I knew we just clocked. We had the same ideas and thought the same way.

Q: What characteristics made Jason Ritter the person he was?

A: Jason Ritter was compassionate, friendly, willing to change, and funny. He also had a great deal of faith.

Q: In your words, why it is important to remember Jason Ritter?

A: One of the things he always said was “Find a Way, We can’t give up.” This quote is still used by many teachers and students at Legend to this day. He said you just need to do the right thing and work toward a single goal to make the world a better place.

Q: What was it like around school before & after Jason Ritter’s passing?

A: It was extremely tough. I had to take some time off school. For a long while, everyone was sad and upset. That day, the news travelled up to Cimarron Middle School and students and teachers heard about it. Eventually Summer came and that was a good thing. That next Fall we could talk about positive things and the pros of Ritter.

Q: What is one word that you would use to describe Jason Ritter and his legacy?

A: Relentless—It all goes back to what he did and what I now try to do. He made learning fun and made school in general fun. He gave school a good impression and thought it was a safe place. Overall he mad sit enjoyable. He said: “Make the world a better place.”

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