Beloved Local Science Teacher Chris Vitt to be Inducted into The Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame
The Brown County Association of Retired School Personnel is pleased and honored to announce that their nominee for 2021, Chris Vitt, will be inducted into The Kansas Teacher’s Hall of Fame June 5 in Dodge City.
Mr. Vitt was an exemplary science teacher of Human Anatomy and Biology at Hiawatha High School for 34 of his 35 years teaching. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology at Emporia State University in 1984, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He went on to gain a Master of Science in Biology Education from Emporia State University in 1991. Mr. Vitt also earned many awards and honors over his tenure in teaching. He was Hiawatha USD 415 Teacher of the Year in both 1996, and 2016. He was also Walmart Teacher of the Year in 1996. In 2002-2003 the Pony Express Uniserve District named him “Outstanding Educator.” Then is 2015 the Pony Express Uniserve District presented Mr. Vitt with the Leadership Award.
This wasn’t the first time fellow teachers and administrators had asked Mr. Vitt to accept a nomination to the KS Teacher’s Hall of Fame.
“I have always been reluctant to ‘toot my own horn.’ As a fourth-generation teacher, I have been taught by, and taught with, many wonderful teachers who are at least as worthy of this honor as I am.” said Vitt.
When BCARSP members asked Mr. Vitt if he would accept the nomination this year, he declined again, at first. But the members were adamant that he should be in the Hall of Fame, and after much time and persistence, Mr. Vitt humbly accepted the nomination.
Many of his former students remember him as their favorite teacher. He had high standards for his students, but he was always willing and available to help them achieve success in his classes both before and after school. Mr. Vitt created the Biology Club, and helped kids raise the money to go to a Marine Biology Research Center in the Bahamas for a week. To make this trip possible, Mr. Vitt started a recycling center in the High School parking lot which he worked, along with the kids, one Saturday morning per month for over 20 years.
Students and parents also helped Mr. Vitt make thousands of delicious burritos to sell, not to mention the countless concessions stands he managed at home games. Each year Mr. Vitt would take his Human Anatomy class on a field trip to university cadaver labs for a day. He took his Biology classes to local streams to conduct bio-diversity studies to then predict the water quality based on that information. Mr. Vitt also built and maintained a twelve-acre prairie area behind the high school to be used not only by his biology classes, but many other teachers and students as well.
Over the years, Mr. Vitt coached golf, volleyball, basketball and football. He spent many of his weekends and evenings at school, making plans for the upcoming week’s classes and grading papers.
At the same time, Mr. Vitt was holding many positions that helped his fellow teachers. After serving as a Pony Express Uniserve Representative to Brown County for many years, he served as the Hiawatha District Uniserve Vice President 3 years, and President of Hiawatha District Uniserve for another 3 years. He was also a member of the teacher’s negotiating team for several years, and head negotiator for several years. This is only a small sample of what Mr. Vitt did at HHS for his students and colleagues.
The following are some statements from his former students.
“You (Mr. Vitt) often come up in our conversations when reminiscing about high school. I know that my confidence in choosing the path of medicine started in your class, and I am thankful for the time you invested in me and my classmates.” ~ Brynn W.
“You push all your students to be the best that they can be, and I know how to be successful academically because of you. You are a great role model and a wonderful figure to follow. I love your sense of humor; I laughed every day in your class. I admire your love for your job, and that you give 110%. Because of you, I know who I want to be, and how I want to live through my future. Thank you for being the best.”
~ Brenna D.
“Mr. Vitt, I would like to thank you for having such an amazing impact on my life. I would like to thank you for being the best teacher a student could ask for. You made me love biology and anatomy so much. You helped me decide to do what I enjoy, and what areas I want to go into with my career.” ~ Alex R.
“I’m not sure I ever told you, but you’re a large part of my inspiration to go into medicine. You introduced me to the world of science and let me explore my interest in biology, anatomy, and microbiology. You had a way of teaching science that allowed room for faith and belief. You helped guide me toward a profession where I can use my love of science, medicine, and my faith to help heal others.” ~ Jack N.
Numerous colleagues, former students, and parents wrote letters of recommendation for Chris Vitt’s nomination. BCARSP would like to thank all the people who contributed to the application process. This includes: Jean Brintnall, Staci Charles, Bob and Margaret Hankins, B.H. Pennel, Dr. Julie Rosa’, John Severin, Mark Sudbeck, and Mr. Vitt’s family.
Mr. Vitt retired from teaching in 2020, and is living near Powhattan. We congratulate Chris Vitt on an especially successful career teaching science and good citizenship to High School Students in Hiawatha. He has touched the lives of so many students, parents, and colleagues in such a positive, life-changing way. Thank you, Mr. Vitt.