By Hope Cronkright
Pulling up in a 1937 Chevrolet Coupe, Ray Rynberg was welcomed to his first day of teaching at Cedar Springs High School by a large group of students sitting on a hill, waiting for school to begin.
He describes his feelings about that first day in 1939 as apprehensive. “[I was] wondering if I was going to be accepted,” he remembered. Seventy years later, at the age of ninety-two, he looks back at his experiences as a teacher with “a lot of good things to reminisce about.”
It turned out that Rynberg had nothing to worry about. According to his students, he made a lasting impact on them—especially the 35 in the class of 1942. Richard Goodell, 85, one of Rynberg’s history students, noted how close the class is to Rynberg. “He has always been there for us,” explained Goodell. He added that the class is also close to each other. “This class has a wonderful relationship—a camaraderie.”
It all started when, by class majority vote, Rynberg became class advisor during their sophomore, junior, and senior years. The class dedicated their yearbook to him saying, “We, the senior class of 1942, respectfully dedicate this, our annual, to Mr. Ray Rynberg, whose perseverance, friendship, and sense of leadership, have contributed much to the success of our class during the three years he has been our sponsor.”
It was only a few years after that Rynberg starting teaching history at Hilltop, although he had a major in Biology and Physical Education.
Since that time, he has attended the Class of 1942’s high school reunion every year. This year, Rynberg walked in to the 67th reunion of the class to see a sign saying “Thank you Mr. Ray Rynberg -Your Kids.”
“He always called us his kids,” explained Goodell.
“It was like a big family,” said Rynberg.
Before coming to Cedar Springs in 1939, Ray Rynberg lived in Grand Rapids. He attended the University of Michigan and Central Michigan after graduating from Grand Rapids Union High School.
Besides teaching, Mr. Rynberg coached basketball, football, track and baseball. In 1940, he took his basketball team to the state semi-finals.
In 1953, he became the principal of Grant High School while coaching football there. During his career as a coach at Grant, he had seven undefeated championships. Today, a football stadium stands in Grant named in Rynberg’s honor.
But it’s the students he met at Hilltop that hold a special place in his heart. “I have scrapbooks [and] medals. It doesn’t mean a thing compared to the relationships [I have]. I have made friends with them,” he remarked.