Featured Alumni: Damon Knoche ’00

Damon Knoche ’00


1.     List some of your awards, achievements, honors you would like to highlight.

While teaching at the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington High School in Ripley, Ohio in 2004, I was honored to be nominated for and to receive the Franklin B. Walter Outstanding Educator Award.  The award is presented to one educator or team from each of Ohio’s 16 State Support Team Regions through the Ohio Department of Education who have made extraordinary contributions to the education of students with disabilities.  I was selected to receive the award by the Region 14 Parent Advisory Council, which serves Adams, Brown, Clinton, Fayette, and Highland Counties for my work to build an inclusive environment for our school district, while advocating for opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the community

2.     What made you choose to pursue a college education at Rio Grande?

My choice to pursue my post-secondary education at Rio Grande came as a result of campus environment, and the sense of community I felt almost immediately amongst students, faculty, and community leaders.

3.     How were you involved on Rio’s campus?

During my time at Rio, I was involved in a multitude of jobs across campus – from serving as a tutor in the Student Learning Center, writing sports articles for the student newspaper (“The Signals” at the time), assisting with the men’s and women’s basketball programs and summer camps, working in the athletic training room, serving as a lifeguard, fitness center staff member, and intramural sports official, as well as an RA in the dorms.  These opportunities not only kept me active, but gave me the chance to meet many other students across campus.

4.     What did Rio offer you besides an education?

Outside of the quality educational experience, Rio gave me the opportunity to find my voice, to explore where my career path may lead, and ultimately gave me the leadership skills to grow and develop into a community leader.

5.     What are some of your favorite Rio memories?

Some of the best memories I have of Rio center around attending sporting events, as well as just the daily interactions with staff and faculty in the classroom.

6.     Was there any teacher, advisor, coach, etc. that made an impact on your life? 

There were so many professors that made a lasting impression on me, and challenged me to think outside the box, strive to be a lifelong learner, and to acknowledge the viewpoints of others.  As a psychology major, Dr. Sparkman and Dr. Sofranko were consummate professionals and mentors, each of whom I had remained in contact with for many years.  To this day, I still find myself sharing quotes and “one-liners” I once heard from the likes of Earl Thomas, Ken French, Dr. Dean, and Dr. Pines, and attempting to mimic the quick wit of Jake Bapst.  The impact that those, and so many others had on so many students over the years is remarkable.

7.     What did you learn about yourself during college?

Learning is a lifelong journey, the majority of which doesn’t always take place within the walls of a classroom.

8.     How did Rio prepare you for your career?

Rio instilled a sense of community, which has been part of each step along my career path.  Regardless of what role or organization I have had the opportunity to impact, the family atmosphere at Rio is something that I’ve tried to recreate from the classroom to the community.

9.  Why are you proud to be a Rio Alumna/Alumnus?

Rio will always be a special place for me, as it afforded me the opportunity to become the person that I am today.

10.  Do you have any advice for current students?

Take advantage of opportunities on campus and across the community.  Learn from all those around you – staff members, faculty, and your peers.  The relationships you build today, will undoubtedly guide your personal and professional journey for years to come.

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