Aryn Tippetts recognized as Big Horn County School District #2 Teacher of the Year

By Ryan Fitzmaurice

After 16 years of teaching in the classroom, Aryn Tippetts is ready to begin a new journey.

But, her time in the classroom has not gone unrecognized. Tippetts has been honored as the Big Horn County School District No. 2 Teacher of the Year for her work as a math and science teacher at Lovell Middle School.

It’s a fitting end to a meaningful and accomplished chapter in her career as she prepares to take on a new role as Executive/Curriculum Assistant for the district.

“She’s the ultimate professional,” Lovell Middle School Principal William Hiser said about why Aryn was recognized as teacher of the year. “She’s always prepared. When she plans for a staff presentation or a lesson in the classroom, she’s always thinking about the potential questions students and teachers might have and prepares for those, too. Her students did amazingly well in state testing and in the classroom this year, and even with all that aside, she is more than worthy of the recognition.”

Tippetts said she’s kind of always been drawn to education and young people.

“From a very young age, I was around younger children. I had younger siblings that I helped take care of, and I was always babysitting them and many other children from families in the community. I think that was the spark that led me to education,” Tippetts said. “They just bring an enthusiasm and excitement that helps keep us young. We sometimes lose some of that enthusiasm for life and learning as adults. Teaching provides the opportunity to always be learning and growing ourselves.”

Middle-schoolers can sometimes get a bad rap. For Tippetts, when it comes to receiving and sharing that enthusiasm of learning, there is no greater grade level to teach.

“I love that they are so excited about life and learning. They want to please. They want to do well,” Tippetts said. “They can definitely be a lot of fun, and they’re not afraid to ask questions and talk - with friends, teachers, anybody.”

Tippetts has taught a range of subjects since she landed at the middle school. She has taught science for all 16 years of her teaching career, but has also taught math for many years. Tippetts taught multiple computer classes that also included journalism and the creation of a yearbook and a monthly newspaper during her time. For the past several years, she’s found her niche teaching math and science.

“I think they both fit me personally,” Tippetts said. “I like lists and kind of like things organized. I like things that are systematic. I have tried over the years to show kids how following steps and procedures for math problems and the scientific method, for example, can help them get to the correct answer or desired result. There’s some satisfaction in that. We want our students to be goal-setters. We want them to have a goal of what they are to learn, and then celebrate with them when they reach their goal. Teaching the subjects of math and science fits right into that logical, step-by-step kind of thinking.”

While the pure rationality of math entices Tippetts, science carries the additional perk of expanding the world her students live in.

“They have the misunderstanding in their minds sometimes that science is just about the mad scientist mixing chemicals and exploding things, but they don’t always understand it as the world they live in and that science is in and connected to everything,” Tippetts said. “It’s their world and the resources around them. It’s how things are formed. It’s geology. It’s life science. It’s understanding that there’s this whole tiny world that we can only see with a microscope. It’s just so much more.”

Tippetts said one of her most important roles as a teacher is to not only meet students where they are in their learning, but to also hold them to high expectations, support them in their learning and then guide them to meeting their goals.

 Hiser said this was one of the most impressive elements of Tippetts’ classroom.

“Aryn had her students set goals for themselves and track their own progress,” he said. “It just gives students a sense of direction - something for them to shoot for. Many exceeded those goals, but even those students who are still striving towards their goals, still made great progress and showed tremendous growth.”

Hiser said that Tippetts was not only a benefit to her students but also to the middle school staff. Tippetts took the lead in teaching virtual education platforms, like Canvas, to the rest of the middle school staff, making sure middle school classrooms were prepared in meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hiser said sure enough, a number of Tippetts’ own students were quarantined due to exposure in the fall.

“When those numbers of virtual learners increased, she was ready for it and made sure those students had the tools they needed in order to still succeed.” Hiser said. “She went above and beyond. She helped those sixth graders to use Canvas and that helped students in all of their classes. She taught them where to find assignments, where to find notes, how to see what they missed and how to conference into their classes. She helped them with all the navigation that they needed to know.”

Tippetts gave credit to her fellow teachers and staff in the middle school building and said her success, and her students’ success, would not be possible without support from everyone in the building. 

“We have great students that work hard and want to do well, and we have an amazing staff that care about young people,” said Tippetts. “The middle school has been like a second home over the past 16 years. I have made lifelong friends at the middle school that I will cherish.”

 As she plans to move to the district office, Tippetts said even though she is ready for her next adventure, the middle school will always be in her heart.

“I thought this opportunity could be a chance to see what more I could do to reach beyond just my classroom,” Tippetts said. “I’ll wear lots of hats. I‘ll have a lot of learning to do and a lot of big shoes to fill. It will be a challenge, but hopefully I can rise to the occasion.”

Hiser said he has absolutely no doubt that
Tippetts will thrive in her new role.

“It’s bittersweet, but we are super thrilled for Aryn,” Hiser said. “She is going to do very well in her new position because she prepares for any situation that she goes into. The middle school’s loss is definitely the district’s gain.”