Colors change for Ruder
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
One can't argue with Sharon Ruder showing her true colors: Grandma first, retired teacher second.
Ruder -- who taught mathematics in the Hays school district for 39 years, including her last 28 at Hays High -- has traded the maroon and gold of the Indians for the red, white and black of McPherson.
"I've become a Bullpups fan, which is crazy," said Ruder, whose oldest granddaughter, Hailey Ruder, is a multi-sport standout athlete at McPherson High School. "I was always cheering against McPherson when I was at Hays High."
Ruder has been selected as this year's winner of the USD 489 Distinguished Service Award. She will be honored at Friday's assembly in the HHS gym and will be one of those riding down Main Street in Friday evening's homecoming parade.
"I told someone, 'If you stay around long enough, they will recognize you,' " she said jokingly.
Seriously, Ruder said being chosen for the annual award "is definitely an honor."
Ruder thinks she has taught approximately 5,000 students during her tenure "and graded a gazillion papers," she said.
Although retired for three years, Ruder still attends Indian events. She especially is looking forward to this year's homecoming because her children are coming home for Hays High class reunions.
Chris Ruder, who graduated from HHS in 1987, is celebrating his 25th reunion, while Jenny Biera (class of 1992) will be attending her 20th.
A bonus for Sharon Ruder and her husband, Rich -- they get to see four of their five grandchildren during the weekend.
"My three little grandsons are excited about riding in the parade with me; they get to throw out the candy," Ruder said of her daughter's children, ages 4 to 10, who live in Garden City.
Ruder graduated from Fort Hays State University in January 1970, and after substitute teaching for a year in the Hays school district, she was hired by Superintendent Valis Rockwell "over the phone."
"No lengthy resumes, no interviews, just old fashioned trust," said Ruder, who began her full-time teaching career at Hays High, where classes still were being held at 323 W. 12th, now the Rockwell Administration Center named after Superintendent Rockwell.
The high school building was so full her math classes had to meet in the old administration building -- just east of DaMar Resources at 234 W. 11th and a block south of the high school.
"You wouldn't believe some of the things (students) could find to bring into the classroom in walking just that block," Ruder said.
Following that first year of teaching, Ruder moved to Hays Junior High, now Hays Middle School, for 10 years before helping open the new Hays High building at its current location in 1981.
Ruder said she has fond memories of all her eras during five decades of teaching in the local school district.
But just like whiteboards have replaced the old blackboards on the walls of schools, Ruder is changing with the times as well. And that includes the color of T-shirts she wears to most athletic events.
Hailey Ruder's younger sister, Sydney, will be a freshman at McPherson High next year.
Hailey, an MHS senior this year, has verbally committed to playing soccer at Washburn University in Topeka in the fall of 2013.
So Grandma will have to start wearing blue and white along with her red wardrobe.
First, though, Ruder said she might have to search through her closet for some old maroon and gold shirts for the weekend.
"I had a ton of maroon and gold but have gotten rid of most of it," she said.
But, she added with a laugh, "I'm going to dress up for (homecoming), so I won't have to worry about it."
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Tonight's bonfire kicks off three days of activities for the 2012 Hays High School homecoming. The bonfire will begin at 7:45 at the HHS football practice fields.
An all-school assembly, which will include some alumni activities as well, is set for 12:15 p.m. Friday in HHS Gym A.
The parade down Main Street will begin at 5 p.m., followed by the homecoming football game with Wichita South at 7 p.m. at Lewis Field Stadium. Royalty will be recognized, and king and queen crowned at halftime of the game.
Alumni back for reunions will meet Friday and Saturday, and the students' homecoming dance is set for 8 p.m. Saturday in HHS Gym B.