The One and Only Dr. K is Retiring After 41 Years
Savoring every minute of his career as a professor in the School of Education, Rick Krustchinsky, Ph.D – or Dr. K as many call him – will walk away from the University of St. Thomas-Houston with a tear in his eye.
"I have the idea in my head that it is time to retire, but I can't get it past my heart,” Krustchinsky confided. “I have had an incredible career."
He has taught thousands of students and has a collection of heartfelt, handwritten notes from many of them thanking him for his guidance and mentorship. A recent letter from alumna Denise Martinez '21 is on his desk. "…You have taught me valuable skills that I will remember for a lifetime to come. I can only hope I am half as good as you are as a teacher. You have truly made a lasting impact in my life Dr. K."
Is He Wearing a Pig’s Nose?
To say Krustchinsky loves his job and gives it his all is an understatement. As a professor who teaches curriculum emphasizing elementary math and science, he isn't above being dramatic in the classroom. Without hesitation, he will use antics to get his message across. One day, dressed as a pig, with a pig nose, pig socks, and more, he jumped on top of his desk while snorting through his lesson plan, well, happy as a pig. Watch the video here.
Highlights of an Illustrious Career at UST
His accomplishments are many. Some highlights include publishing with 12 faculty members, an undergraduate student and two former alumni. Five of these publications were associated with UST’s Service Learning Program. He led 12 Study Abroad trips to 15 different countries. He and a former graduate student published the award-winning book titled Incredible Edible Science textbook in 2009, accomplishing a long-held dream. Krustchinsky received the Texas Student Education Association Texas Advisor of the year three times where the UST Student Association brought back more than 40 plus winning awards during his tenure of advisor. In addition, he received the accolade of the National Education Association National Advisor for the U.S. At the State level. Krustchinsky was awarded the State of Texas Ben Coody award for, his leadership in Texas Teacher Education. UST faculty colleagues voted for Krustchinsky to receive the St. Thomas Aquinas Excellence in Teaching Award in 2009-2010.
Call of the Wild for Mr. K.
A Houstonian who attended M.B. Smiley High School, then Stephen F. Austin University, Krustchinsky wanted to become a wildlife biologist. With few jobs on the horizon after graduation, he hung onto one sentence from a professor/mentor who told him he should become a college professor. Krustchinsky went on to earn a master's degree from SFA and then a Ph.D in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. His focus was science and math education. After some teaching experience, he became a professor at Troy State University in Alabama and then UST for the last 41 years.
Leaving a Legacy
Working under several deans, he has come full circle and works for a former student and colleague, Dean Ana-Lisa Gonzalez. "I have had the unique privilege of having Dr. Krustchinsky as my professor, field supervisor, study abroad director, colleague, mentor, associate dean and friend," Gonzalez said. "No one better represents the teacher education program than he. His commitment to the program has spanned several decades. His expertise and dedication are far-reaching and have undoubtedly changed the lives of generations of teacher candidates and the students they serve in the pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade arena. His legacy will continue even after he has left the University for his well-deserved retirement."
Home Is Now in the Country
What Krustchinsky won't miss is the two-hour commute to work from Iola, Texas. An outdoorsman, he loves fishing and gardening. He and his wife, Laura, recently built a house in Iola, which is between College Station and Huntsville, with two acres and a pond. With five grandchildren coming to visit, you know he will be outside holding them in rapt attention as they learn how to fish and plant a garden next to grandpa in all his glory.