The Francis Howell School District (FHSD) is proud to announce that Matthew Riffee, science teacher at Francis Howell North High School (FHN), has been selected as the 2017 FHSD Teacher of the Year. Today’s students are learning differently than ever before, and Mr. Riffee is always working to make sure students are mastering learning, not just mastering “school.”
“Matt doesn’t teach the way he was taught,” said Dr. Mary Hendricks-Harris, FHSD Superintendent. “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 FHSD Teacher of the Year.”
Riffee has embraced 21st Century Learning core competencies, such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that students need to thrive in today’s world. One way Riffee is incorporating these skills in his classroom is through flipped learning, a teaching model that inverts traditional teaching methods and delivers instruction outside of the classroom. As he has incorporated more project-based and collaborative learning into daily instruction, it has allowed students to become reflective learners, receive constant feedback, and have more opportunities to collaborate. The result is that more class time is dedicated to exploration, depth, creativity, and critical thinking, which has translated into increased student engagement and learning.
“Witnessing the ‘aha’ moments when students realize they have the power, skills, and knowledge to succeed is the greatest personal reward in education,” said Riffee. “The personal satisfaction from seeing their successes is the byproduct that drives me every day.”
Not only is Riffee dedicated to students in the classroom, but he also supports kids outside the school day. Three years ago he founded the FHN HOSA (Future Healthcare Professionals Association) Chapter, and he continues to manage the club with nearly 130 student members. HOSA students participate annually in the state HOSA competition, and this past year nine students advanced to the national competition. He has also coached baseball, basketball, and golf.
In addition to his work in the classroom, Riffee has received numerous professional recognitions, attended, and led countless professional development sessions, and is engaged in many aspects of the Francis Howell learning community. In 2014, he received the Special Educators and Administrators Member Award, and in 2016 he was selected as the FHN Teacher of the Year. He has presented at the Missouri PLTW (Project Lead The Way) State Conference for the past three years, in addition to leading District- and school-level PD sessions on project-based learning, flipped learning/mastery, cooperative learning, and Screencast-O-Matic. He has also served as a mentor to new teachers, as well as teachers working to develop problem/project-based lesson plans.
Riffee’s passion for teaching was inspired by his grandfather – who was a teacher, administrator, superintendent, and founder of Missouri United School Insurance Counsel (MUSIC). He says 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,” said Riffee. “When I receive messages, visits, or run into former students, and I see/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, 2017.