Panther Pride is Prepared for New Season
Anthony Ruttenburg has been a teacher for five years, all of which have been at Plano East Senior High. Before becoming a teacher, he was a truck driver for fifteen years. He said that he changed vocations when his son, who has autism, entered into the school system and Ruttenburg didn’t feel confident with recommendations he was receiving regarding his son’s education. He said he just accepted what he was told to do because he didn’t know better. He graduated from Jackson State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and earned a master’s degree in counseling at Lamar University. With the education and experience he has now, he feels confident that he is able to direct his son’s education.
Ruttenburg is the Head of Delegation of Special Olympics at Plano East. He also teaches math and food science to special needs students. He said Panther Pride, the Special Olympics basketball team, has grown substantially in the last five years. He said, “There is more parent, school and community involvement.” There were six players when the team began, this year there are 13 players. The team is coed. Ruttenburg enthusiastically said, “We started a cheerleader program two years ago. This year will be the first year we will compete in the cheer tournament.” The tournament will happen in May, which is when the basketball tournament occurs.
Panther Pride practices every Friday during school. Their season is from May – October. They have two games most months. Regular games are free to attend. Ruttenburg said he will give two community service hours to students who support Panther Pride by attending the games; he will give an additional hour to those who bring team spirit posters. (See schedule on this page.)
Ruttenburg explains the highlights of his five year career as the coach of Panther Pride, “I like how the program has grown and how the school embraces it now. Peers give the team high fives in the hallway. I like to see the joy the kids get out of it.” He has a goal to add Special Olympic track and field and bowling teams at Plano East.
Panther Pride team members gain a sense of pride, learn to work as a team, increase social skills and have the opportunity to interact with the community.
Team members this year have a variety of disabilities. The majority of the team is low-functioning and has never played basketball before this year.
Panther Pride is not a school funded program, thus finances are a struggle. Ruttenburg said, “Everything we do we have to raise funds for, or it comes from my pocket.” If you would like more information, please contact Anthony Ruttenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo provided by Anthony Ruttenburg.