Lu Rippy will soon transition from working with a building of children to focusing on one specific child.
On Dec. 20, the Lincoln Trail physical education teacher will retire from her classroom duties for a pursuit she expects to be enjoyable.
The first-time grandmother — who earned that title on Aug. 29 — will have babysitting duty (for Sloane Rae Davis) while her daughter, Leah Davis, is at work.
“I think it will keep me very busy,” the 1978 University of Illinois graduate said.
The former Lu Zorn became interested in teaching P.E. because of an opportunity she received at Bloomington High School.
Before schools had sports teams for girls, she joined an organization called Girls Athletic Association.
“As part of the program when I was a senior, my P.E. teacher (Mrs. LeMoine) asked me if I would like to be a student assistant in one of her freshmen classes,” Rippy said.
“From that experience, I knew I wanted to teach physical education.”
While classroom instructors have the same nucleus of students each day, Rippy gets to interact with all of the students in third-, fourth- and fifth-grade.
“You have them for three years in a row,” she said, “so you see the development of their skills.”
Her class is one students anticipate.
“Most grade school students love to be active,” Rippy said, “so they love coming to class.”
She can’t limit her fondest memories to one specific moment.
“My most memorable highlights are seeing the students’ excitement coming down the hallway to the gym for class,” Rippy said, “and their faces when they find out what they are going to play for the day and watching them beam when they can learn to perform a skill that is new or they couldn’t
“It makes you feel good when you help them build their confidence and raise their self-esteem.”
Once the bell rings, there’s little idle time.
“I cram a lot of learning and activity in a 30-minute class,” Rippy said.
“Students learn to transition from one activity to the next because I don’t want to waste time.
“I feel that they are active and the ones that may not want to be usually go with the flow of the rest of the students.
“The students love to compete, so they don’t want to be left out.”
Rippy has been a prominent part of traditions at Lincoln Trail that can be traced back for decades.
The Winter Funland, Jump Rope for Heart and the Junior Olympics have been integral staples for years. Her husband, Chuck, has volunteered to help with the end-of-the-year Junior Olympics.
“Both of us have a love for track and enjoy seeing the students compete and encourage each other,” Lu Rippy said.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the students learn the different events — 50-meter dash, 75 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters, 4-by-100 relay, shuttle rely, softball throw, discus throw, running long jump and standing broad jump.
“The students get an opportunity to sign up for the event that they would like to participate in,” Lu Rippy said. “The Junior Olympics is run like a track meet.
“Every student goes home with a participation ribbon. On this day, (the classes) all cheer and support each other.”
She believes this has long-term repercussions.
“I feel that the experience of this event has exposed the students to the sport of track and field,” said Lu Rippy, who has spent 25 years at Lincoln Trail, “and may help spark their interest in the sport in the future. I hope this tradition will carry on long after I retire.
“The preparation for these days is a lot of work, but so worth it because of the memories and impact they have made on the students.
“I run into students that have been out of high school for years and the first thing they ask me is, ‘Do you still have these events?’ They always say that one of them was their best day of the year. What better highlight could I have than that?”