Lynne Renick picked the wrong day to wear a hula skirt to work.
During a staff meeting early Thursday morning at Free State High School, the ninth-grade English teacher was recognized as the Lawrence Secondary Teacher of the Year. District officials, former co-workers and family members came to pay tribute to Renick, who was dressed in a grass skirt, flower lei and Hawaiian shirt as part of the school’s luau day for spirit week.
“It wasn’t my first choice to wear this outfit, but my husband talked me into it. If he knew what was going on and put me in this costume, he is going to deal with it later,” she joked with the crowd of fellow teachers and administrators.
Renick, who is a 30-year veteran of the district, is new to Free State. She arrived this year as part of the transition that moved ninth-graders from junior high to high school. Before this school year, she had taught at Southwest Junior High, where she had been since the school opened in 1995.
Despite her three decades of teaching, she exudes the enthusiasm of a new teacher, Free State Principal Ed West said.
“She still hasn’t lost the passion and energy for teaching. She has approached each day as if it was the first,” West said.
The energy of puppies times 10, is how one student described Renick, Superintendent Rick Doll told Free State staff. Renick energizes any room she walks into, whether it’s a classroom or a meeting room, said her former principal at Southwest, Trish Bransky.
One example is the way Renick reads to her students.
“It was in a way you could not, not pay attention,” Bransky recalled. “She has a very expressive way about her that draws attention to the lesson.”
For her part, Renick said there’s a reason she has so much enthusiasm in the classroom.
“It is hard to make English fun. If I come in with a ton of energy, at least they’ll respond to that and are willing to put up with the grammar,” she said.
During vocabulary lessons, Renick pushes her students by using words that Bransky, who was an English major, said even she had to look up.
“She has a way of making kids strive for the next level,” Bransky said.
As part of the honor, Renick received a $1,000 check from KU Credit Union and will be nominated to the Kansas State Department of Education’s Kansas Teacher of the Year program. And her photo, Hawaiian shirt and all, will be on display at the district office.