Five Ritenour High School Huskies Culminate First Week of School with White House Tour
Five Ritenour High School Huskies who are part of the school’s Teach & Lead program, culminated their first week of school as invited guests on a White House tour celebrating education in our nation’s capital on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023.
Christina Andrade Melly, Missouri’s 2023 Teacher of the Year and an English language arts teacher at Ritenour High School, received an invitation to attend a special tour of the White House. The invitation, which other 2023 state teachers of the year received, encouraged these honorees to bring students and other educators as part of the White House’s kickoff celebration to the 2023-2024 school year.
Joining Melly for the weekend trip were RHS Teach & Lead Coordinator Beth Seibold, along with three RHS students who are in the school’s future-teacher program: Senior Kayla Brown and sophomores Ryland Weeks and Logan Simpson. The Teach & Lead program is the school’s educator career pathway that provides mentoring, coursework and extracurricular activities for Huskies who want to pursue a career in education.
As part of the special White House tour, the Huskies shared reasons they are optimistic about the 2023-2024 school year as part of a new East Wing installation that is on display at the White House through mid-September. On apple-shaped sticky notes, each of the Huskies added their thoughts on why the school year looks bright.
“I wrote down that I am optimistic about my classes,” said Weeks, who is taking honors courses this year along with the new Working in Education courses as part of the Teach & Lead program.
Weeks said the White House tour was an opportunity of a lifetime, and took his passion for learning to a new level.
“Just walking into the building was awe-inspiring since you're not just walking into a big house, you're walking into history,” said Weeks. “This is a tremendous honor and it's a feeling you only get when you experience history like the White House.”
Brown added that she relished the moment of standing in front of the portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. "It showed me that women of color are making just as much of an impact. Michelle Obama is an icon, and seeing her success inspires me to be successful no matter what it takes."
As Missouri’s Teacher of the Year, Melly has traveled extensively advocating for educators, students and schools, and sharing her passion about being a product of the Ritenour School District who graduated from RHS in 2006 and couldn’t wait to come back and teach at her alma mater. But this trip to the nation’s capital was especially inspiring with a RHS colleague and three students who want to be teachers.
“It was inspiring to watch this trip through our students' eyes: they saw teachers and students being honored at the White House, walked through history in streets and monuments, and talked about their hopes for teaching in the future,” said Melly. “It energized me to walk back into my classroom on Monday morning (after the trip), because my future colleagues were so excited by the experience.”
In addition to the White House, the Huskies had the opportunity to visit museums and monuments with other state teachers of the year and their students, which spanned the gamut of grade levels from preschool through high school. The Huskies had plenty of conversations with other outstanding teachers and students from across the country.
"We were able to see future teachers interacting with others who love the profession, while also witnessing their reactions to our nation’s capital and the White House,” said Seibold. “Silence can be deafening sometimes, but in this instance, silence represents taking in the moments being provided to them and to us as educators and relishing in the opportunities that await."
To remember the sights and feelings they had during the trip, the Huskies made time each day to journal and take plenty of pictures with their phones. Their trip garnered plenty of local media interest that allowed them to share their excitement with the community. Missourinet, KSDK-Ch. 5, St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all covered different aspects of the trip and its connection with Ritenour’s Teach & Lead program.
The Ritenour Teach & Lead program stems from the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s Grow Your Own program, which encourages high school students to become teachers in their home districts. Ritenour currently partners with Saint Louis University’s School of Education, which provides scholarships to Ritenour students to become teachers and then return to one of Ritenour’s schools as an educator.
Several of the students in the SLU program also received scholarships from Ritenour and the Ritenour Pride & Promise Foundation. Currently, seven Ritenour graduates are studying at SLU as part of the program while being mentored by Ritenour educators.