A teacher and coach who motivates by emphasizing the value of teamwork will give the keynote address at the Columbus Human Rights Commission annual dinner meeting.

Rick Weinheimer, who chairs Columbus North High School’s English department and also serves as the school’s cross-country coach, said he was asked to speak about how individuals can use teamwork to build a culture of excellence.

His keynote speech will be part of the program for the annual human rights dinner at 6:30 p.m. April 30 at The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Approached by Human Rights Commission member Rich Gold about giving the keynote, Weinheimer said two of Gold’s children have been in his class at North and had a behind-the-scenes look at how he motivates students and athletes.

Weinheimer said his talk will focus on strategies he uses to motivate young people and how to mold individuals into a team.

He also will focus on the importance of the Human Rights Commission’s work.

“Has there ever been a time that human rights have been more in the news,” he asked, referencing the recent controversy over Indiana’s adoption of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Weinheimer said he won’t be offering an opinion about that controversy in his speech, but will encourage the community to support the Human Rights Commission and its efforts.

Gold said he nominated Weinheimer as the keynote after hearing his children Rachel and Andrew talk about how they thoroughly enjoyed Weinheimer’s senior literature course at North.

Beyond that, Gold said he has followed Weinheimer’s career as a cross-country coach for North’s boys and girls teams, a coaching career that has spanned 37 years and resulted in six state cross-country titles.

“I think the real reason, and it’s noteworthy, is you have to look at his success as a coach,” Gold said.

It’s remarkable that when anyone talks to one of Weinheimer’s runners, or see a quote from them, they all have the same statement, Gold said.

They talk about how many days they run in a row, the work ethic, and they talk about North and they talk about their team, he said.

Since cross-country is usually considered somewhat an individual sport, Gold said he found it notable that Weinheimer, a nine-time Indiana Cross Country Coach of the Year, is able to develop team unity and a common view for success.

“When you think about our city, that’s what we want — great dialogue and unity — to bring our city forward,” he said.

The commission describes Weinheimer as a teacher and coach who has strived to shape the minds of hundreds of young people in order to create an inclusive and diverse environment through effective communication and cooperation. He emphasizes to his students and athletes the importance of hard work, maintaining a positive attitude and humility, according to a commission release.

Weinheimer is the chair of the Northside Middle School Language Arts Department in addition to the high school English department, and oversees teaching practices for 26 teachers and curriculum for 2,800 students.

In addition to teaching and coaching, Weinheimer does motivational speaking for audiences including corporations, coaches and youth groups.

Gold said Weinheimer has a great reputation as a motivational speaker.

Weinheimer will be an example of Columbus’ “welcoming community” effort, Gold said, adding that he hopes the talk will be motivation about how Columbus should move forward.

“While it is an individual sport, the team scoring in cross-country is the first five to finish,” Gold said. “There is a lot of focus on getting them all across the line.”

As a metaphor, that’s an interesting way of thinking about Columbus’ future, Gold said.

“It’s about how we want our city to be,” he said. “We want to get everybody across the line.”

If you go

What: Columbus Human Rights Commission Annual Dinner Meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. April 30

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Tickets: Admission is by advance ticket purchase. Tickets are $30 and are available at the Human Rights Commission office in City Hall at 123 Washington St., or online at columbus.in.gov/human-rights/annual-dinner/. Tickets for tables of eight are available. Deadline for purchasing tickets is 5 p.m. April 24.

Also: In addition to Rick Weinheimer’s keynote address, the commission will honor the 2015 William R. Laws Human Rights Award recipients and winners of the 2015 Benjamin M. King Essay and J. Irwin Miller Art contests. The theme for this year’s art and essay contests is “Diversity in Education.”

For more information: Call 812-376-2532 or email humanrights@columbus.in.gov

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.