Kathey Gibbs was fresh out of college when I was her student.

She wouldn’t want any fanfare. Despite the fact that she has influenced more than one generation of Augusta students, she simply wants to retire and walk away quietly at the end of this month.

That’s who she is.

Kathey Gibbs was fresh out of college when I was her student. Decades have passed, but I still remember my excitement upon being accepted into her senior journalism class. I was proud to work on the school newspaper and the yearbook. It would prove to be demanding at times, but still my favorite Augusta High School course and activity.

Perhaps even more special than being a journalism student was the way Mrs. Gibbs, (I could call her by her first name, but she’ll always be Mrs. Gibbs to me), managed to place me in a creative writing course. My schedule prevented me from being available during the time she taught the class, but she gave up free time and allowed me to sit in her classroom and study with her one-on-one.

She did that for me. A teacher who encouraged her student’s dreams.

She’s probably forgotten that kind gesture, but I hope she knows just how special that made me feel and that I will be forever grateful.

Undoubtedly, she has many former students who feel the same as I. She touched a lot of lives with her teaching, dance team coaching, and tutoring.

One of her great attributes was making students feel special and talented. And for some, that may have been the only classroom where they achieved that feeling.

She knew the impact that encouragement and praise could have on young writers.

Some of our best times as journalism students were brainstorming for the school paper. She allowed us to be creative and free-thinking, which meant lots of talking and laughter.

Her classroom was comfortable and relaxed -- the perfect conduit for creativity. Somehow she managed to keep us on track and focused on the task of getting the yearbook published. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment upon seeing our book when it arrived from the publisher.

High school graduation...college...a lifetime journey with unplanned paths...the years and dreams have slipped by...I didn’t become that photo journalist for National Geographic. I didn’t travel the world and I never wrote that best seller. Circumstances led me home and fortune brought me to the newspaper I read while growing up. The wonderful old Gazette, which has always been an important voice in our small corner of the world.

On a daily basis, I use the knowledge my teacher taught me. And I still want to make her proud.

This past spring when I received a couple of first place awards from the Kansas Press Association, she was one of the first people with whom I wanted to share my excitement. She understood.

To my wonderful teacher, I hope that retirement is a glorious chapter. You certainly deserve a rest - with lots of sunshine and fun.

I honor your service and devotion to Augusta’s students. You treated us with respect and empathy. You possess a special effervescence that allowed you to "reach” us. You helped grow our imaginations, and listened to our hopes and dreams.

You made a difference.

Belinda Larsen is the Gazette Editor and a proud Augusta High School graduate. She can be reached at: lifestyles@augustagazette.com.