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Francis Howell science educator earns 2017 Teacher of the Year Honor

Matthew Riffee, [foreground center] a science teacher at Francis Howell North, is the 2017 Francis Howell School District Teacher of the Year.

By Nez Savala

Matthew Riffee, a science teacher at Francis Howell North, is the 2017 Francis Howell School District Teacher of the Year.

Riffee is noted for his style in the classroom and is described as an educator who “is always working to make sure students are mastering learning.”

“Matt doesn’t teach the way he was taught,” Dr. Mary Hendricks-Harris, superintendent, said. “He is always looking for new and innovative ways to teach. That’s why he inspires students and teachers, and why he was selected as our Francis Howell School District Teacher of the Year.”

Riffee embraces 21st century learning core competencies, such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. He focuses on project-based and collaborative learning in daily instruction, which allows students to become reflective learners, receive constant feedback and have more opportunities to collaborate. In 2014, he received the Special Educators and Administrators Member Award, and in 2016, he was Francis Howell North Teacher of the Year.

“Witnessing the ‘a-ha’ moments when students realize they have the power, skills and knowledge to succeed is the greatest personal reward in education,” Riffee said. “The personal satisfaction from seeing their successes is the by-product that drives me every day.”

Riffee is the founder of North High’s Future Healthcare Professionals Association chapter and continues to manage the club with nearly 130 student members. He has been a coach for baseball, basketball and golf teams, and serves as a mentor to other teachers.

He said his passion for teaching was inspired by his grandfather, who was a teacher, administrator, superintendent and founder of Missouri United School Insurance Counsel. Becoming an educator like his grandfather was the best decision of his life.

“As a teacher, I have the ability to build amazing relationships with students, positively influence their lives and help shape their future,” he said. “When I receive messages, visits, or run into former students and I see and hear what they’ve become, it fills my heart with happiness. Most of all, when they say ‘thank you,’ I know they are my greatest accomplishments, just like those with my grandfather.”

Riffee will be honored, along with all building Teachers of the Year, support staff Employees of the Year, Howell of Fame Award winners and district retirees at the annual Howell of Fame Awards Ceremony on Monday, May 1.

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