Years later, education still geared toward students
By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
This is not a story about an administrator. This is a story about the students. The students who excel in math and science. The students who are leaders on campus. The students who have the potential to make a difference in the world. That's what he would prefer.
Ron Keller, director of the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences at Fort Hays State University, is retiring after 40 years in education. This is not a story about an administrator, who drives his students to Walmart whenever necessary. The administrator who cooks for his students. The administrator who truly believes in his students' potential.
"This has been an unbelievable way to finish a career," Keller said. "Being able to work with these highly talented students to see what they have accomplished, what they're going to accomplish in the future, it's just phenomenal. I don't think there's a better place I could be."
Keller presented a list of accomplishments by KAMS students -- 24 pages of accomplishments.
Morgan Murray, member of the class of 2014, works with a program teaching doctors chest intubation. Cole Mosier, class of 2012, is completing his aerospace major in France. Christopher Siegle, class of 2014, is ranked 77th in the nation for archery in the junior division. Seven members of the class of 2014 were elected as senators for the Student Government Association.
"KAMS is all about family," said BreAnna Terry, class of 2014. "Throughout the years, we have gotten closer. We all call Hays home now."
The KAMS program, which recently completed its sixth year, is a two-year program designed for high-achieving high school students. Students finish the program with a high school diploma and a minimum of 68 hours of college credit.
Keller was hired in 2008 to spearhead the program after working 23 years as a secondary school administrator.
"They were conducting a national search to find someone to coordinate the program and be here for the kids," Keller said. "I was lucky enough to receive the position, but this isn't about me. It's about the kids."
His eyes filled with tears and his voice began to weaken.
"I've been there 24/7 for these kids," Keller said, tears falling. "I really love working with students, and I think I've gotten to the point where they know they can count on me. They know I'm there for them with everything they're doing."
Sharon Lin, class of 2015 from China, said Keller is family.
"He takes me to Walmart any time I want to go," she said.
Keller wrapped his arm around her.
"He has big hands," Lin said.
"She's an incredible artist," he said. "I'm here to encourage these kids and help them grow, wherever their passion is. When students come here, we tell them the sky is the limit, and they really do take advantage of that."
From being involved as a secondary school administrator, Keller said students have been his focus for the majority of his career, but he believes he should spend more time with his family.
"My wife and I really want to do some traveling, both in this country and abroad," he said. "She has been here for me through everything, and I want to do some things for her over the course of the next few years."
Keller said he and his wife never have been to the Grand Canyon, nor have they seen the leaves turn colors on the East Coast in the fall.
"We want to go sit in a cabin off the coast of Maine and just lay out by the ocean," he said. "We've been to Alaska and fell in love. Now we want to go back. Nothing for us is out of the question."
After losing his mother a few months ago, Keller believed now was the time to explore his other interests and experience the world with his family.
"Forty years in education is a milestone," he said. "It goes back to the fact that I want to spend time with my wife and family. I want to see my granddaughter's programs. People are really important to me. I don't want to lose contact with any of these guys here."