Matthew Riffee Named District Teacher of the Year


Credit to Chase Meyer

Matthew Riffee stands with FHN principal Andy Downs, Superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris and FHSD CFO Kevin Supple. Riffee was awarded the title during his fifth hour class on March 1, 2017.

By Chase Meyer and Michal Basford

During fifth hour on March 1, Matthew Riffee was brought out into the hall with the expectation of speaking to a District IT representative about the network problems the school had been experiencing throughout the week. However, he was greeted by a group of students, staff and Superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris. It was then that he was given the award of FHSD Teacher of the Year.

“I was very excited for him, excited that he was selected amongst the many District teachers of the year over the course of the last two years,” head principal Andy Downs said. “I think he does a great job in his classroom with students. I think students enjoy being in his class. He gets them excited about science and learning.”

District Teachers of the Year are chosen from building teachers of the year from the previous two years across the District. They fill out an application which goes to the District Professional Development Committee. All identifying information is removed, and the committee of around 20 decides on who is selected based on certain outlined criteria.

“I’m so lucky to have him for all four years because he has actually helped me decide that I want to be in medical, because he can be on a more personal level and actually help somebody rather than just giving somebody work and having them do it on their own and then come back and critiquing it,” Medical Interventions student Sammi Donaldson said. “Whenever we come back, he’ll actually help us learn it. It’s not just a blow off course for everybody.”

Riffee has been teaching since 2006, starting at Central High School in Springfield, MO. Before he became a teacher, he wanted to go into something health care related and went through multiple options in that field before graduating with a biology degree paired with a chemistry minor (pre-Pharmacy). To go into Pharmacy, he needed to spend a year saving and went to work for Health South as a drug rep in the diagnostic division while simultaneously working as a pharmacy technician. He wasn’t happy with what he did with Health South, so he applied to the teaching program at Missouri State, eventually getting his teaching certification. All the St. Louis Health South facilities were closed around the time Riffee decided to change his career.

“Everything that I try to do in the class is done with the student’s best interest in mind,” Riffee said. “I’ve witnessed some teachers [whose] lessons are for the students but sometimes they’re designed to make their life easier. But, I kinda view it as ‘I’m not trying to make my life easier, I’m trying to make this student’s life easier in the future,’ so whatever I can do now to help that better their life is worth it.”

In years past, he has coached basketball, golf and baseball. He is the current HOSA sponsor alongside Dawn Hahn. He teaches Principles of Biomed, Medical Interventions and Anatomy and Physiology.

“I’ve always been impressed by Mr. Riffee and his willingness to continue to learn and evolve what he’s doing in his classroom,” Downs said. “I’ve always been impressed with his reporal with kids, his motivation to give kids the best possible opportunities that they can have. I think he really is motivated by the students that he serves on a daily basis as a teacher, and I think that’s an awesome thing.”