Kim Rygas was nominated by a family member, Amy Early.
Mrs. Rygas began teaching in 2008. Education is extremely important to her. In 2007, while pursuing her B.S. in Early Childhood/Special Education at Radford University, she was selected to represent RU at the Teacher of Promise Institute. Later in 2008, while earning an M.S. in Education, she was selected as Pre-Service Student Teacher of the Year. In her effort to make a difference in the lives of the children she holds so close to her heart, Mrs. Rygas recently completed a second Master's in Educational Leadership at Radford University.
She continued to teach her students at Gilbert Linkous Elementary while obtaining her second Master's and served as an Adjunct Instructor at Radford University, instructing future teachers on the foundations in Preschool Education. She not only wants to be the best teacher she can be, but she wants to mentor future teachers to strive to make a difference in the lives of children.
Over the course of her teaching career, Mrs. Rygas has been the recipient of several awards such as Tech Night Award Nominee in 2014, the McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence Semi-Finalist in 2014, and GLE's Teacher of the Year in 2013. She currently serves as co-principal designee when the principal is out of the building and as a Leadership Team Representative at GLE.
One could go on and on about the list of accomplishments and awards that Mrs. Rygas has earned, but these awards are not what makes her an incredible teacher. It is her heart for the children that sets her apart from most teachers. Teaching is not her job; it is her calling. She devotes her entire life to mentoring children to become better human beings.
Mrs. Rygas takes an active role in before and after school events at GLE, such as Linkous Lads and Ladies, PTO, etc. "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind", "When Young Readers Struggle", and "Words Their Way Train the Trainer" are just a few of the workshops she has attended to arm herself with the knowledge and ability to aid in helping children learn.
Early has personally witnessed Mrs. Rygas go above and beyond for her students. Mrs. Rygas has personally and discretely packed "weekend backpacks" for students to ensure they have food to eat when they are not at school, knowing that their parents struggle financially. She has anonymously provided Christmas gifts for students that she knew would otherwise have no presents under their tree. Every year, she has her hairdresser come to her classroom and help her students cut her own hair to donate to cancer patients, teaching them to think of others and be charitable.
Mrs. Rygas takes time out of her personal life to attend dance recitals, gymnastics competitions, band performances, and other events that her students invite her to. She even agreed to coach a student's softball team this year. Her entire community adores her. She cannot go anywhere without a current student running up to hug her, a former student excitedly filling her in on what is going on in their life, or a parent thanking her for loving their child.
This year, Mrs. Rygas will be traveling with a group of RU students and professors from June 15-July 6 to Malawi. While there, she will be teaching in an impoverished village for nine days. She and her group will incorporate English through the use of a STEM project and teach hundreds of students over the course of their short stay. She is so excited to get the chance to extend her reach outside of her community and make a difference in the lives of children across the world.
Mrs. Rygas has a huge heart, compassion, and a pressing desire to not only teach children the fundamentals in education, but to show them what it means to be a good and decent human who truly cares for others. She is changing the world for the better, each and every day.