Sue Rippe does not know exactly what made her go into education. "I still don�t really know," she said. "I think fate just brought me into it and I love it."
Even if Rippe is not certain why she became an educator, several people in Kansas are certain she is good at what she does. At a ceremony at the Wichita Marriott Hotel on Nov. 13, Rippe was chosen from eight finalists to be the 2000 Kansas Teacher of the Year.
Rippe, who earned a bachelor�s degree in biology from Fort Hays State University in 1981, said, "I was numb. To even conceive of representing 33,000 teachers in the state of Kansas was an overwhelming responsibility. I�m certainly not the best of them but I am their representative. It was incredibly humbling."
Rippe later received her master�s in science education from Wichita State University. She has taught for 16 years in the Wichita School District and is currently the Science Department chair at Northwest High School. Rippe�s duties at Northwest High School include scheduling and teaching wherever she is needed. Currently, she teaches human anatomy and chemistry, "which Fort Hays fully prepared me for. They�re a great science school."
When Rippe began attending FHSU, she had no intention of becoming an educator. After interning at what is now Hays Medical Center, she decided she no longer wanted to major in pre-physical therapy at FHSU.
"At this point, I had a whole lot of science background," Rippe said. "I had so many professors I admired; Drs. (Gary) Hulett and (Eugene) Fleharty � they had to have made a mark on me that I just didn�t realize at the time."
Rippe was nominated for the Wichita Secondary Teacher of the Year by Dr. Charles McLean, principal at Northwest High School. The city award was a stepping stone, Rippe said, for the state and national awards.
To be qualified for the Kansas State Teacher of the Year Award, Rippe had to fill out a 16-page, "very thorough" application and taped a nine-question interview to be distributed to the 45 deciding committee members. Included in the application were the teacher�s philosophy of education and an updated resume. Rippe said one aspect of her resume which seemed to help in receiving the award was her depth.
"I�ve tried to be involved in all different levels of education," Rippe said.
She has been a school board member in the Wichita area; an adjunct professor at a local college; conducted and attended workshops; worked as a middle school and elementary teacher; and, she said, "I gave a few speeches along the way."
Rippe also coaches softball. She and her husband, Cliff, who is also a graduate of FHSU, are involved in their church�s Catholic Youth Organization. They are also active in the Booster Club at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School where their children Travis, 18, and Ashley, 15, attend.
"So many teachers deserve this award. I can walk down one hallway at Northwest High School and pick out those teachers," Rippe said. "I look forward to make an impact on education as much as I can. I hope, in some way, I can make a positive impact."
The other seven finalists were Julie Jo Bervert, a language arts teacher at Seaman High School in Topeka; Nancy Jo Bradley, a fifth-grade teacher at Amanda Arnold Elementary School in Manhattan; Crystal Kaye Cross, an English teacher at Great Bend Senior High School; Tammy R. Lalicker, a third-grade communications teacher at Edith Scheuerman Elementary School in Garden City; Beverly McWilliams, a vocal music teacher at Towanda Elementary School; Gayle J. Newman, a reading teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School in Overland Park; and Karen Diane Wall, an American history teacher at DeSoto High School.
Two of the other seven finalists were FHSU alumnae. Cross received her bachelor�s degree in 1969 and her master�s degree in 1971, both in English. Lalicker received her bachelor�s degree in elementary education in 1982.
The eight finalists will receive a $250 Southwestern Bell Foundation classroom grant; a $100 IBM Corporation classroom/professional development grant; a $100 gift certificate from Superior School Supplies; a $2,000 cash award from the Security Benefit Group of Companies; and a $1,000 cash award as a recipient of the Nancy Kassebaum-Baker Annual Award for Excellence in Teaching. Rippe will also receive a $4,000 cash award from the Security Benefit Group of Companies; a lifelong learning scholarship from the Kansas Board of Regents; a computer from Apple Computer Inc.; and a Jostens Leader in Education ring.
The Hubbard Foundation Kansas Teacher of the Year Ambassadorship is a new program this year. A replacement teacher will be funded by the foundation so Rippe can participate in activities to "support the mission of the Teacher of the Year program," said the Kansas Board of Education Web site www.ksbe.state.ks.us.
Rippe will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to meet with President Bill Clinton and attend the National Teacher of the Year Awards Banquet.