PARK HILLS — A longtime educator will be honored as one of Mineral Area College’s Distinguished Alumni during commencement ceremonies at the community college’s Field House on May 7.
Kathy Ritter, ‘nee’ Hahn, was born and raised in Park Hills – back then, Flat River– to parents Bob and Rosemary Hahn. Ritter followed in their footsteps by attending her local community college from 1971-72, earning an associate of arts degree — one of the first degrees she would earn in her career.
Ritter said that during her time at MAC, she was involved in activities such as MAC Singers, Student Senate, basketball and cheerleading. She credited the community college with helping to prepare her for her future in education.
“I was fortunate to have had some of the best teachers of my college experience at MAC,” she said. “Through student activities and relatively small classes, I developed friendships with other students from the surrounding area and felt completely engaged in the community of MAC. This feeling of community decidedly impacted my work as a teacher/administrator as I attempted to create this same type of atmosphere and similar opportunities for young people. For me, the intimate setting of MAC provided a comfortable, enjoyable, yet challenging environment. It was the perfect first step in my career.”
Moving on to University of Missouri-Columbia, Ritter earned a bachelor’s degree in math education in 1975, and began working for Jefferson Junior High School in Columbia. She received her master’s degree in secondary education administration from MU in 1978.
From 1984-86, Ritter taught math at Rock Bridge High School, before moving on to “older minds,” teaching math at MU for about six years.
She returned to the Columbia Public Schools in 1991 and taught at Hickman High School for one year before returning to Rock Bridge as a math teacher and director of student activities. In 1993, Ritter became assistant principal at Rock Bridge High School, and in 2007 she became the school’s principal. She retired in 2010.
“This was a period of significant growth for RBHS, with student enrollment increasing from 900 to 1,800 between 2000 and 2007,” Ritter said. “It was a challenge to continue to sustain our culture of personalized education during this time of growth.”
While at RBHS, Ritter created many programs and projects to support student leadership and involvement.
“My passion is for students,” Ritter said. “As a teacher and administrator, I strove to provide a personalized culture in which students had opportunities to be successful and demonstrate leadership. I believe that high school is a critical time for young people to gain confidence, to feel validated and empowered.”
Awards Ritter has earned include: Columbia Public Schools Outstanding Administrator of the Year 2010; Mid-Missouri Counselor Advocate of the Year 2009; Missouri Interscholastic Press Association Administrator of the Year 2008; and Columbia Women’s Intersport Network Mentor of the Year 2007.
Ritter and her husband, Jim, have two children: Joe, 28, and Tim, 26. Ritter’s husband is a retired superintendent of schools in Columbia. In her retirement, Ritter is enjoying biking, reading and traveling. She plans to visit Rwanda, Africa at the end of May for a three-week humanitarian assistance program.