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41 years is not an eternity, but it’s close

Debbie Rice has been teaching for 41 years, 14 of which were spent at Central Kitsap High School. She plans to retire at the end of the school year. - Steven DeDual/staff photo
Debbie Rice has been teaching for 41 years, 14 of which were spent at Central Kitsap High School. She plans to retire at the end of the school year.
— image credit: Steven DeDual/staff photo

Central Kitsap High School will soon bid farewell to Debbie Rice, a 41-year teaching veteran and director of more than 200 student productions.

Rice graduated from Arizona State University in the year 1967 and began her long teaching career in Riverside, Calif. At the end of this school year, she plans to retire.

Once established as a teacher, she then moved back to her hometown of Flagstaff, Ariz. and spent many years teaching at high schools between there and Tempe, Ariz.

Rice, who became a debate coach in addition to her teaching duties, said she decided to move to Washington about 14 years ago because of a friend and former assistant debate coach.

“A friend of mine, Paula Peterson, who worked with me in Arizona had moved up here,” she said. “So I came to visit her and thought ‘ooh, trees, mountains, water...I could live here.’”

Rice said she toured the school while on her visit and “sort of fell in love with CK High School.”

“I saw this little theatre and I thought it might be fun to start a program if there was ever an opening,” she said.

Rice added that she only applied to CK High because she already had a job in Arizona and if she was going to move, she “was going to go where I wanted.”

After three years of waiting and interviewing, she was offered the drama position.

“It has been a great ride,” she said.

Rice has directed plays her entire career and said extracurricular activities, like drama club, are what get students into the classroom.

“Every program in the school that students participate in is what brings them to school,” she said. “I teach English and I know there is probably not one student in my English class who gets up excited and thinks ‘I’ve got to go to my English class!’ I’m sort of like their dentist. They don’t really like coming, but they don’t want their teeth to fall out. They need to write and we require it, but it is not the reason they are here. They are here for football and basketball and soccer and band and choir and art and debate and journalism and broadcasting.”

Rice said she understands schools must cut programs when money is not available, but she said cutting the extracurricular subjects affects students just as badly.

“It hurts my feelings when they cut programs that I know impact students’ wanting to be here,” she said.

Rice added that in her 41 years, she has seen how cutting programs from the public education system creates societal class wars.

“The people with means give their kids private lessons and private soccer teams,” she said. “And the people without means don’t have it. When the cuts start happening, it really bothers me. Our motto here is ‘All students learning well,’ unless we don’t have any money.”

Rice, who said her 41 years have been great, is now ready to take the next step in her life.

“I still love it,” she said. “I still love being around teenagers. I’m still teaching and I need to leave while I am still doing it. I don’t ever want to be the teacher who just hands out worksheets and then sits back and reads the paper waiting for the day to end.”

Rice said she will be taking a Mediterranean cruise with her daughter over the summer and has a special plan for the beginning of the next school year.

“One thing I am going to do is on August 26, when all of the teachers come in for those meetings we have to go to before school starts, I will be in Barcelona, Spain and I planned it that way. I’m planning on calling them too,” she said.

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