In 2004, McKenzie Lueders was a senior at Dodge City High School. Now, she not only teaches Chemistry in the very same classroom in which she attended, but she’s the USD 443 Kansas Teacher of the Year nominee for secondary education.
“I know the list of outstanding educators that have received this nomination before me and I am lucky enough to teach with many of them,” she said. “I've been in their classrooms and I've seen what they do, and to be named with them is humbling.”
Lueders was born and raised in Dodge City. She started teaching in the fall of 2009 and also serves as the cheerleading coach and a PLC facilitator. Lueders comes from a family of teachers, beginning with her grandmother, who started her career in a one-room schoolhouse in Oklahoma and taught for 45 years. Her mother is also a teacher and Lueders teaches in the same building as her husband, brother, and sister-in-law.
“I remember having a professor say ‘school isn't meant to be fun; you're here to learn,’” she said. “I thought that was outrageous because I'd been in classrooms with teachers who made learning fun. That always stuck with me. I knew if I ever had my own class, I could try and fuse the divide between the way school ‘should’ be and how it can be. I've tried to bridge that gap in my classroom.
Lueders attended Baker University in Baldwin City and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry. Before she began teaching Chemistry, she was a Biology teacher at the high school. Lueders earned a Master of Science degree in Education from Fort Hays State University.
“I refuse to get stuck in a rut and do the same things over and over each semester if they aren't effective,” she said. “It would be easy to say ‘it worked just fine; I don't want to spend any more time than I have to thinking about school,’ but that's just not who I am.”
Lueders’ husband teaches Algebra at DCHS. They have a 10-month-old daughter, London.
“If I just stood in front of 80 students each day and talked about Chemistry, I'd be bored out of my mind,” she said. “Teenagers are awesome and interacting with them is why I do what I do and is truly the best of both worlds.”
Lueders said that beyond the walls of the classroom, the relationship she has with her students is equally rewarding, but very different.
“Many of my former students are doing awesome things in college and in life and the fact that they still think about me enough to keep me in ‘their loop’ is awesome, she said.
According to Principal Jacque Feist, The district’s selection of Lueders’ for the secondary KTOY nominee is significant because she is not only a DCHS graduate but also a product of a transition to teach program.
“We are at a critical time in education – it is difficult to find teachers in general, let alone in the western part of Kansas,” Feist said. “Mrs. Lueders’ is a perfect example of someone who is truly a Red Demon through and through and we plan to keep that tradition alive for many years to come.”