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'Good kid' turns to 'best job' at KMS

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

A sense of anticipation infuses Larry Keil's classroom as the clock runs out on the final semester at Kennedy Middle School.

Awaiting the start of his 2 p.m. Tuesday science class, Keil recalled his days as a student sitting in the very classroom where he has assumed the role of teacher for many years.

"Mr. Pfeifer was my home room teacher," he said, pointing toward a row of windows as he laughed. "And he threatened to throw me out those windows several times."

Norman Pfeifer, longtime KMS teacher later backed up Keil's story; however, he also had charitable recollections of Keil.

"Larry was a good kid and he's a good man," Pfeifer said.

The eighth-grade teacher who drove into the KMS parking lot in a 1973 Mustang 36 years ago and anticipates driving out in a 1991 Chevy pickup next week, Keil said the hardest part of his move to Hays Middle School is figuring out what to take with him from his classroom.

"I've got a whole bunch of bins full of stuff," he said pointing out the assortment of storage containers lining his classroom on the third floor of KMS. "We'll ship it over and it will be like Christmas when you open all your presents."

KMS will close at the end of the school year, with students and many staff members transferring to Felten Middle School, to be renamed Hays Middle School.

Keil, a Hays native, received both his undergraduate and master's degrees from Fort Hays State University. He has taught four sections of eighth-grade science and two sections of eighth-grade social studies during his tenure at KMS, and also coached football, basketball, track and Science Olympiad.

Teaching, he said, is the "best job," with something new every day, and young minds just ready to absorb information. Although he taught one year at Hoisington, he said he never has had a desire to teach anywhere but Hays.

"This is the best," he said. "You can go visit other schools, but when you come back here you know there's a difference."

Keil said both he and his students are looking forward to the adventure of moving to Hays Middle School.

"The kids are loving it," he said. "It's a thrill. They get to go to a new school."

Although he acknowledged some sadness and loss of tradition as the move to HMS progresses, he envisions benefits from combining the staffs of KMS and Felten Middle School.

He said he hopes the opportunity to collaborate with other faculty and get new perspectives, along with a decrease in students per classroom, will help create a new synergy.

The efforts of KMS Principal Shanna Dinkel in preparing students to make a positive transition to HMS are to be commended, Keil said. With only nine months to lay the groundwork for the transition, he said the focus has been to make sure the students are prepared.

"We (teachers and staff) can adapt," Keil said. "We just want the kids to be happy and want to go there.

"Make it positive."