Navy veteran brings technical expertise to Geneva High School theater department
Jon Richert never stops seeking an outlet to pursue his passion for electronics.
The Batavia resident found it during 10 years of service in the Navy, and he found it again as the technical director in the Geneva High School theater department.
Richert, 39, spends much of his time now figuring out the logistics of recording an "Addams Family" production in May, but between 2000 and 2010 he circled the globe as an audio technician on a number of submarines.
As part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Richert served on the USS San Juan and USS Albany nuclear-powered submarines. Security restrictions prevent Richert from talking about elements of his experience, but it's a long way from the backstage area of the Geneva High School auditorium where he teaches students the technical aspects of putting on a proper production.
"There were definitely challenges (in the Navy) but I never realized how much I would miss it after I got out," said Richert, who left the Navy because of knee and hand injuries.
Richert grew up in Columbia, Missouri, and after high school he chose the Navy over other service branches because the Navy offered the best opportunity to learn the technology that most interested him. He researched two dozen colleges, but felt they wouldn't offer him the same practical experience.
As a sonar technician in the Navy, Richert was responsible for tracking everything from whale sounds to warships. Because of the limited number of crew members on submarines, Richert said he was trained in all aspects of the ship's operations.
And beyond that, Richert underwent months of training to become a lay leader responsible for religious services and counseling on his ships.
Richert eventually rose to the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, earning numerous citations along the way.
"I had to know every single component and how everything worked ... hydraulics, water, air, and how every weapon worked," he said. "Sonar was only the specialty."
Richert earned multiple degrees from DeVry University after leaving the Navy and settled in the Chicago suburbs to marry Shoshannah, his wife of nine years. Richert, who's a member of the St. Charles posts of the American Legion, AMVETS and Veterans of Foreign Wars, also earned a master's degree in Leadership in Ministry from Judson University.
Among his many projects as a technical adviser in the last decade, Richert has been a lighting technician at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. Contacts in the industry eventually brought him to Geneva High School, where for the last two years he's been a part-time teacher, auditorium manager and theater technical director.
Richert aims to become a full-time teacher so he can pass along the diverse knowledge he's attained through the years.
"I want to make sure I can build someone up in practical knowledge," he said. "More than anything, that's what I want to leave with my students."