Riccardo Magni lifts heavy objects for fun, but not just any heavy objects. He lifts Viking hammers, bars the diameter of coke bottles and weights hanging from a hand grip, known in the armlifting world as the “Silver Bullet.”
He also teaches high school biology and environmental science and as a Brandman University adjunct faculty member trains the next generation of teachers.
At first glance, teaching and lifting don’t have much in common. Not so, says Magni.
“I take everything very seriously. You have to have a system in place (for both teaching and lifting). You take students where they start and try to move them somewhere higher. With lifting, I do the same thing,” says Magni, who concentrates on improving his performance rather than worrying about what a competitor is doing.
For a self-described “skinny kid,” who switched from basketball to track, thinking he could be a high jumper, it came as a surprise when his track coach pegged him for shot put and discus. “Once I started lifting weights, it became more apparent why it was a good fit,” says Magni.
When he couldn’t quite compete at the elite track level he aspired to, Magni switching to other kinds of competitions, including heaving lifting and Scottish Highland Games. His success there led him to armlifting and eventually championship competitions, or as he says, “Better late than never.”
Magni brings that kind of drive for success to his teaching at Brandman’s Santa Maria and Online campuses as well. “He’s an awesome instructor and has been with us a very long time,” said Patricia Graham, Santa Maria campus director.
It was a Brandman student, who was student teaching for Magni at Pioneer Valley High School, who first told him he should consider teaching for the university as well as at the high school.
“I like the learners. I’ve had the pleasure of hiring many of them,” said Magni, adding that there are more than a dozen of his former students working in his school district now. “We get the best teachers from Brandman and we put them to work.”
Magni says his strength in the college classroom is being able to impart what he does all day long to help his students thrive in their own classrooms.
“So much (about teaching future teachers) is theoretical. That’s great but how does that make that kid who is not sitting still, sit still? I want to give them something they can use the next time they’re in a classroom,” said Magni.
He emphasizes the need to be engaging and to build relationships with students that help them see the value of what they’re learning. “If they want to work for you and with you, you’ve got it made.”
He sympathizes with Brandman students who are juggling work and family and going to school, but he also reminds them that having your own classroom is a lot of work as well. Just as with armlifting, the key, he says, is to keep a positive mindset that it will all work out.
For more about Magni’s armlifting, see the “‘Brains and Brawn’ – Riccardo Magni, Pioneer Valley teacher, to compete for Team USA” article in the Santa Maria Times.