Mr. Ressler: two worlds, one teacher

Mr. Ressler in one of his first years at Haverford – courtesy of Mr. Greg Ressler

The beginning of a new week.

It is 5:40 on a Monday morning and Mr. Gregory Ressler’s sleep has been interrupted by a set alarm clock. Immediately, he attacks the new day. 

He goes into a meditation/mindfulness practice in which he controls his breathing in an exercise called the “Wim Hof” style. It brings a “calmness” to an anxiety-filled day. He then begins his “minimum dosage workout,” which involves pushups, situps, and squats. “It’s supposed to be easy,” Mr. Ressler says, “too often we stop doing things because it gets a little bit too hard.”

Without skipping a beat he throws on his warm-up sweats and goes for a run before driving to school. Once he arrives, he heads over to his coaching locker to retrieve his dress clothes and, after a shower, gets changed.

By the time he grabs a coffee and gets down to his room, there are already a couple of students working, ready for the school day. 

At that point, he rarely leaves his room. “People will see me elsewhere and ask, ‘Wow Mr. Ressler, what are you doing on the third floor?’” he says. “Part of running a studio, a good studio practice is to always have someone there who can help share ideas or guide you or watch, just being there for safety reasons with all the power tools.”

“I’m an adventure junky, with his head in the clouds but his feet grounded, that’s how my mom says it.”

Mr. Greg Ressler

Haverford students may assume that his only after-school activity is coaching the school ultimate frisbee. Yet this is only a small piece of the life Mr. Ressler leads after school hours.

“I do something that is kind of interesting called cold therapies. During the winter and cold seasons, I do cold plunges every day with a couple of buds, and I’ve seen really great value in that,” Mr. Ressler says.

Even after spending a whole work day as a woodworking and 3D-design teacher, Mr. Ressler considers this activity, “the most difficult thing I do all day. The cold water is really shocking and overwhelming, and everything after that seems numbed and easier.”

But there is even more to this activity that students may not be very aware of. “The cold plunge after school also allows me to transition into my other life. At school, I’m Mr. Ressler, outside of this area my nickname is ‘Rupert.’”

Rupert is the artistic and creative name that he uses when he is working in Philadelphia – renting out properties and working on custom construction, furniture, and design.

“When I’m in Philadelphia very few people know me as Greg, and when I’m at Haverford very few people know me as Rupert,” Ressler says. “It is a very interesting dichotomy of personalities.”

Photo of Mr. Ressler and some outdoor adventure – courtesy of Mr. Greg Ressler

In an “ideal world,” Mr. Ressler’s day ends with some time by the campfire, getting hooked on an educational Netflix series, or reading an interesting book before hitting the hay.

The second side of Mr. Ressler’s life is one that students cannot see. The Haverford School community would most likely say collectively that Mr. Ressler is the cool woodworking teacher on the ground floor. Maybe to some he is the teacher who facilitates games of “red-hands” in his room. Nonetheless, Mr Ressler likes, “to be community-driven outside of school, having that ‘dual personality.’”

Mr. Ressler would say that growing up in the Mennonite faith has instilled in him “a lot of ambition,” and “a lot of work ethic.” It is clear why he would say that he has “a very addictive personality,” being a person who gets a lot of satisfaction from working, adventure, and creating for others. 

Adventure and nature are two aspects of Mr. Ressler’s life outside of school. His house is located right on the Wissahickon, where “miles and miles of the most epic hiking and biking” are right outside his door.

A casual photo of Mr. Ressler during one of his bike tours – courtesy of Mr. Greg Ressler

“I’m an adventure junky, with his head in the clouds but his feet grounded, that’s how my mom says it. There are people who dream really big and don’t have the ability to follow through and people who can only do what they’re told,” Mr. Ressler says. “I’ve worked really hard to maintain the balance of dreaming big and working hard.”

One of his ways of maintaining the balance is to live by the message: ‘Dream big, work hard,’ which were the words printed on a banner in the gymnasium that he played in during the seventh grade basketball team tryout. 

After living the childhood of a youth pastor with plans of going to seminary, a switch flipped in Mr. Ressler’s young life. In high school he found art, and his new life began to take off.

“I went to Tyler School of Art at Temple and dropped out for a semester, and my best friend, a professional skateboarder, and I traveled to Europe together,” Mr. Ressler says. “We spent time in Spain, Italy, Gmunden, Austria” (which he noted as being one of his favorite places in the world)  “and The Czech Republic with no plan. We had bikes and skateboards and just enough stuff to travel.”

This is the trip that brought the nickname “Rupert Gregory” to life, and it stuck even after coming home. After a successful first biking trip, he commenced a second trip in the summer of 2016, when he spent a month and a half in Iceland. When he was not on his bike, traveling across the countryside, he was spending valuable time writing and admiring the views.

“I spent days writing in the middle of nowhere where I didn’t see any people. It felt like Lord of the Rings, straight up,” says Mr. Ressler, “I was in the middle of this epic, beautiful, powerful landscape, and all I had was myself, my bicycle and enough supplies to maintain it.”

Along the way and after months and months of biking, traveling, and moving around, he came to the realization that “home” was not permanent for him. “‘Home’ will always be me in a moving state.”

His own real estate company was the result of this phenomena, when he bought a house and later sold it because he soon became restless staying in one location.

Photo of Mr. Ressler and Drew Paradis ’20 dressed as Mr. Ressler for Halloween – courtesy of Mr. Greg Ressler

“You put so much time and effort into the remodel of a ‘home’, but it’s not a home to me, it’s a house,” he explains, “Even now I live in my basement and rent the top unit. I live in this small one-bedroom studio with a big garage with all my motorcycles and bicycles.”

Unfortunately, this is the last school year that Mr. Ressler is teaching at Haverford. He looks forward to exploring the other half of his current life.

“Single in his 30s running around with no plan after graduation, people hear that and freak out, but it’s the coolest thing in the world for me because my whole life I’ve had a plan.” Mr. Ressler goes on to explain how he “stayed at Haverford for this year, I told myself it would be wrong to leave the senior class that I grew really close with… This is it, this is it for us and it sucks.”

Even while he maintains his goofy personality, laughing at the world, he will miss spending time with the boys, seeing “Pierre come in super early or Drew Paradis just not leaving [him] alone all day.”

Mr. Ressler will miss being that guy who was just a little bit different than most teachers.

For someone who has dedicated everything that he has ever done at Haverford for the boys, he is “a guy who works through it” and who will always keep himself busy. Just ask any of the students he has ever taught, or the seniors he had this year especially.

Mr. Ressler says, “I have a friend with cancer, and they have said that it is weird because the whole world now knows what it’s like to have cancer. ‘Will tomorrow come?’ ‘Will we be able to wake up, hug, and kiss the ones we love without feeling this heavy anxiety and stress?’

Mr. Ressler has his own coping mechanism.

“I’ve learned how to breathe, accept things that aren’t perfect, and move past it, knowing that I can’t solve it right now so why waste energy and time getting anxious.”

Author: Andrew Tornetta '20

Andrew Tornetta '20 is a student in the journalism seminar. He was in Mr. Keefe's Honors English IV class and won a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing competition. He is a student leader of Peer Counseling and has been on both the golf and crew teams for four years.