Hall of Leaders - Retired Educators

Kathy Ritter

Kathy Ritter served as principal of Rock Bridge High School from 2007-2010 and assistant principal and director of student activities at Rock Bridge from 1992-2007. She previously served as a mathematics teacher at Rock Bridge, Hickman High School and Jefferson Junior High School. After retirement, Kathy continued to work with educators as a consultant with the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center (now the Hook Center), helping secondary schools in their efforts to become more effective professional learning communities. She also coached new principals and assistant principals in Columbia Public Schools.

While at Rock Bridge, Kathy encouraged the creation of a wide range of clubs to appeal to every student. She initiated the Global Village, the Bruin Pride Award, the Salute to Seniors Awards recognition, and the Rock Bridge Reaches Out program, among many others. She ensured that Rock Bridge remained student-centered in all aspects.

Kathy received her bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics education and her master’s of education degree in secondary education administration, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She was honored by the Missouri Community Colleges Association as the Distinguished Alumnus and by CPS as the Outstanding Administrator.

Linda Coutts

Linda Coutts began her teaching career as a third-grade teacher in St. Louis County in 1970. In 1978, after completing her degree in mathematics education, she was recruited to be the elementary mathematics supervisor for Columbia Public Schools, a position she served in for 32 years. Since retiring from CPS, Linda has taught elementary and early childhood mathematics methods at MU.

During her tenure at CPS, students and teachers thrived in an autonomous atmosphere. Linda not only served the learning needs of students, but also served the learning needs of teachers. She knew that to improve student achievement, teachers thinking and instructional strategies and methods had to change.  Professional development was a priority.

Linda earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a master’s degree in elementary mathematics from Webster University. Among her many other professional and community volunteer activities, she has served as president of the Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Darlene Huff

Darlene Huff began her career with Columbia Public Schools in 1980 as a school nurse, ultimately becoming the coordinator of the Health Services program in 1990 until her retirement in 2004.

As schools faced barriers to learning represented by poor student health, Darlene sought out new ways to improve children’s health and therefore their ability to learn through education and prevention strategies. Under her leadership, a Comprehensive School Health Policy and Procedure Manual was developed for CPS and was ultimately shared with other Missouri school districts. Darlene also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri School of Nursing and worked with Dr. Robert Gaines to establish a spinal screening program that was implemented in school districts throughout the state.

Darlene established the Dr. Gene E. Huff Educational Scholarship program that annually provides a Career Advancement scholarship award and a Teaching Fellowship scholarship award to CPS educators and teaching fellows. She serves on the board of directors for the MU School of Nursing Alumni Board.

Carolyn Roof

Carolyn Roof has spent her professional career helping countless students and families as a counselor. She served as an elementary school counselor at Columbia Public Schools and the CPS elementary district school counseling coordinator until 2010. As counselor, she developed and implemented the use of many career education materials and organized career fairs and career days.

At Mill Creek Elementary, she was well-known for her active involvement in everything from Career Days to Doughnuts for Dads. She was a positive force and developed many fun activities children wanted to be a part of, whether spending time with Siggy the mascot or enjoying her puppets and hats for every occasion. She was an active member of the Mill Creek Elementary Partners in Education program and was honored for her work with a career education award.

Carolyn is an adjunct faculty member in the School Counseling department at Stephens College. She serves on the leadership board of the Mid-Missouri School Counselor Association and leads the School Counseling Curriculum Writing Project at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Carolyn has a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in elementary guidance and counseling from Northwest Missouri State University. She also has self-published numerous children’s books.

Jim King (posthumous)

Dr. Jim King served as principal of Rock Bridge High School from 1993-1998 and as assistant principal there from 1978-1992. Dr. King passed away earlier this year.

As principal, Jim enlisted teachers to examine the possibility of various schedules to enhance learning. After much research and input from faculty, Jim created a schedule customized to meet the needs of RBHS and the block schedule was initiated. Today the block schedule remains in place at Rock Bridge and has been expanded to all three CPS high schools. He also was dedicated to the Global Village multicultural event at Rock Bridge, where students displayed their cultures in the commons with music, food and artifacts. After retiring, Jim would return to Rock Bridge each year to experience Global Village.

Following his retirement from CPS in 1998, Jim became the executive director of the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals. As he traveled to different districts, Jim continued to sing the praises of CPS, and when he returned home, he would remind everyone of “how good we have it” at CPS. Jim earned a bachelor’s degree in French and a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Missouri State College, and a master’s in education and a doctorate of education in secondary administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Harold Bossaller

Harold Bossaller’s love of farming came from his childhood in rural Missouri. He shared his passion for agriculture through his career teaching at Hickman High School and the Career Center, making a positive difference in the lives of many young students.

-Raised on a farm and attended grade school in Gilliam, Mo., with an 8th grade graduating class of nine students. Graduated from Slater High School in 1964 as a class of 60 students.

-Bachelor of science, College of Agriculture, University of Missouri-Columbia

-First teaching assignment in Thayer, Mo.

-Enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and trained as a communications specialist in the electronics program. Just before he was about to leave for his first assignment in Japan, he was released to go back to teaching as part of the government’s “separation for the convenience of the government” to relieve the teaching shortage. He then received a contract to teach in Kahoka, Mo.

-Interviewed with Dr. Russell Thompson for an agriculture teacher position and taught at Hickman High School, 1972-1979

-Taught at the Columbia Area Career Center from its opening in 1979 to 1988, then was assigned back to Hickman, where he retired in 1998

-Served as advisor for the Future Farmers of America student organization

-Taught graduate courses and wrote curriculum projects for the University of Missouri-Columbia

-Worked in the Assessor’s Office for Boone County as a certified Real Estate Appraiser for 13 years

Fate has seemed to guide me through my career. I have never regretted my career choice. I have made so many wonderful friends through the Columbia Public Schools system and in the community, and I feel so blessed. I have had a lot of great students and keep in touch with many. Thanks so much for this honor.”

– Harold Bossaller

Marilyn Parker

Marilyn Parker’s career with the Columbia Public Schools system went from being room mother at Russell Elementary to teaching food service management for more than two decades at Hickman High School and the Career Center, preparing students for careers in the food service industry.

-Bachelor’s degree in home economics education, Drury University, Springfield, Mo., 1958

-Taught in the Shawnee Mission District for five years

-Substitute taught at Russell Elementary for four years

-Taught Food Co-op and Food Service Management for 22 years at Hickman High School/Columbia Vocational School (Columbia Area Career Center), retiring in 1998. Worked with seniors who were attending classes in the morning and released from school in the afternoon to work in the food service industry. Many of these students were working because of necessity while others were aspiring to pursue a career in the food service industry.

-One of the highlights during those years was the establishment of a classroom restaurant called The Pantry, part of an entrepreneurial unit that involved organizing and managing a business. Students tested recipes, priced products, established menus, ordered inventory, and prepared and served food items to targeted customers. Students also were involved in limited catering events. During those years the classroom was the commercial kitchen. The Super Kewp Award Program was created in this program.

-Served on the Mid-Missouri Restaurant Association Board and the Central Missouri Food Bank Board

-Honors include CCTA Teacher of the Year nominee; Hickman High School Award of Excellence Teaching nominee; Mid-Missouri Restaurant Association Restaurateur of the Year Award

-Serves in the adult choir and as an elder at First Presbyterian Church; chair of OutReach; volunteer at the Wardrobe; member, the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri

There is no profession as important as teaching children and adults. We hear this, we know it to be true, but most teachers do not pursue teaching only because it is a noble profession, but because teaching is their passion. There is no life achievement greater than (hopefully) affecting or making a difference in the lives of students. I pray I have, for a small measure, because I gave it my all. Thank you Columbia Public Schools, Columbia Area Career Center and Hickman High School for giving me that opportunity.”

– Marilyn Parker

Vickie Robb

Vickie Robb began her teaching career as a special education teacher and soon moved into administration, serving as an elementary school principal for 25 years. She was selected as principal of West Boulevard Elementary School when it became the first Model School for Columbia Public Schools and worked with faculty, teachers and students to create a new vision and principles of learning for the school.

-Bachelor of science, elementary education, and learning disabilities, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.

-Columbia Psychological Examiner’s Certificate

-Masters of arts in special education and learning disabilities specialist degree in educational leadership/administration

-Ray B. Lewis Award for Outstanding Administrator at the Elementary Level, Columbia Public Schools, 2008

-Chosen as the building principal of the first Model School in Columbia Public Schools at West Boulevard Elementary School, served there from 2004-2008

-University of Missouri-Columbia, College of Education, 2003 High Flyer Award in the Teacher Development Program

-Altrusa International of Columbia awarded the Celebration of Service Award for the Education Division, 2003

-Missouri Association of School Librarians School Administrator Library Service Award, 2000

-Recognized by Boone County Group Homes and Family Support in appreciation for services to persons with developmental disabilities, 1996

-Outstanding Administrator, South Central Association, Zone 8, 1990

-National Distinguished Principal for the state of Missouri from the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1989

I was very fortunate to be mentored by many wonderful leaders and individuals who loved learning… I can only hope that I took a small piece from each of them to become who I strived to be during my leadership years. I had many leadership opportunities within the school systems in which I was employed and through my professional organization, Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals. I learned so much from each and every one of those opportunities. My final position with Columbia Public Schools was principal of West Boulevard Elementary, the Model School. One way to describe that work would be “continual action research.” I was extremely grateful to be entrusted with this final leadership position. I was able to hire all faculty and staff who held a similar vision and create with the teachers and parents a school that embodied the principles of learning for all and a results orientation. That was one of the finest staff with which I had the pleasure of working. The adults and students were constantly learning and figuring things out. I learned as much from the students and families of West Boulevard as I did from my staff. I can honestly say every experience there enriched my life. I had always wanted to be a teacher… never sought out to be a leader. The people who surrounded me saw my potential as a leader and continually guided me along the way. So, Columbia Public Schools Foundation, thank you for giving me the opportunity to publicly thank those people as you included me in the 2015 Hall of Leaders.”

– Vickie Robb

Linda Walker

Linda Walker served as an educator in the Columbia Public Schools for 25 years, including serving as the first librarian at West Junior High School. At Jefferson Junior High School, where she was the librarian and media specialist for 20 years, she increased student use of the library by 90 percent.

-Bachelor of science in education

-Master’s degree in library science, Southeast Missouri State University

-Missouri University Educator in Missouri for 30 years

-First Librarian at West Junior High School

-Librarian/Media Specialist at Jefferson Junior High School for 20 years, where she increased student use of the library by 90 percent; promoted activities in the library during student lunch periods by hosting chess tournaments and student music groups; and encouraged teachers to schedule use of the library during class time for research projects

-Sponsored and supervised: Student library staff and the Student Library Advisory Board

-Faculty responsibilities: Faculty Activities Committee Chair; Partners in Education Committee Chair; North Central Association Evaluation Committee Chair; served on NCA Evaluation visits

-Recognitions: Columbia Fund for Academic Excellence, 1980; Columbia Community Teachers Association Teacher of the Year; State President, Alpha Delta Kappa, 1993

The highlight of my 30 years in education was the 25-year love affair with the Columbia Public Schools and Jefferson Junior High School. I was so fortunate to work with a group of administrators and teachers who were not only my colleagues but also my friends. They were a most dedicated and talented group of professional educators. My selection to the Hall of Leaders is a reflection of their collaborative spirit and support. I cannot thank them enough. Junior high school students are unique. They require both TLC and TLC (Tender Loving Care and Tough Loving Care). I truly believe that we provided both at JJHS. Some of my most rewarding moments were when students would come in to my office, close the door and tell me something they felt they could not tell anyone else.”

– Linda Walker

Joy Underdown

Joy Underdown began her career in education on the West Coast, and then enjoyed a 17-year career in public education at Fairview Elementary, where she was teaching when President Reagan came to visit and honor the school.

-Began her education career in California, where she taught nursery school and kindergarten in small, private schools. Many of the students were the children of celebrities, and she met the Ronald Reagan family.

-After 16 years in L.A., she came to Columbia to pursue degrees from Stephens College and the University of Missouri-Columbia

-Taught third grade at Fairview Elementary for 17 years

-Taught at Fairview in 1987, when President Reagan came to Columbia to present the school with an Award of Excellence

I am grateful for the honor of being selected to the Hall of Leaders, and I thank you very much. The 17 years I spent at Fairview Elementary School afforded me some great, varied opportunities and experiences. I had the chance to attend national conferences focusing on my particular interest in elementary science, and I attended the annual Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg. It was wonderful to meet authors and illustrators of books with which the children were familiar. In 1982 we went through the process of North Central accreditation, and I learned a great deal as Chair of that experience! My Fairview colleagues were always helpful and eager to share new ideas. As retired teachers we meet once a month for breakfast, so we are able to stay in touch and support each other when needed. One of the favorite activities for the children – and me – was the “critter program” where small animals visited the classroom, and I encouraged the children to journal the event. We also had a wonderful custodian who loaned us a small incubator and several eggs. We loved watching the chicks hatch and grow and finally move on to a farm. Columbia Public Schools has provided me with many fond memories for which I am most grateful.”

– Joy Underdown


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