Loved teachers to retire from RBHS this year


Ben Kimchi

First there was Wales, then Puerto Rico, next Japan and finally two school districts in Minnesota. All of these lead to Columbia, Missouri, and Rock Bridge High School. Dennis Fitzgerald came to RBHS after teaching worldwide and saw potential for growth in the Bruin’s students and staff. Several years ago, Fitzgerald helped begin Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society); at the time there were only six members. Now the club’s members are in the triple digits.
Fitzgerald, along with Chris Beck and Kay Williams, will leave this home as they retire from Columbia Public Schools. Fitzgerald teaches pre-calculus and AP-calculus; Beck teaches elementary students in the RBHS basement, and Williams works with special education students. Williams said it has been the relationships she has built with her students that have shaped her career.
“I worked with one young man who struggled at home and in school,” Williams, who has taught here for 16 years, said. “And being able to assist him with his career goals, despite many difficult obstacles both in school and out.”
Williams, who had previously worked in Virginia Beach, Virginia, defines her teaching style as “goal oriented,” which she has seen tremendous results with. Williams attributes a lot of her success with her students to RBHS’s special education program.
“Working with special needs students has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences,” Williams said. “I’ve truly loved Rock Bridge’s dedication to helping students grow. Because of the resource program and tremendous student body at Rock Bridge, I feel privileged and honored to have been able to teach here.”
Fitzgerald, who  worked as a professional wedding photographer for 15 years, taught photography for 18 years and coached boys basketball for 25 years, shares a similar teaching philosophy with Williams, valuing student success and achievement above all else. Aside from teaching mathematics around the world, Fitzgerald has worked in several other departments, and students here felt privileged to have him as a teacher. They love his sense of humor, calling him “the Fitz.” and remembers his favorite moments about the class.
“Fitz is a very passionate, kind-hearted teacher,” said junior Dalton Nunamaker, who is in Fitzgerald’s AP-Calculus class. “He tells us these Laffy Taffy jokes in his class, and they never fail to get a laugh.”
Fitzgerald and Williams leave Rock Bridge this year, but the changes they have made will not soon be forgotten. The once six member math honor society Fitzgerald worked to create now has over 100 members, and Williams has helped many special need students achieve lasting careers.
“The boy I had worked with, along with many others, is now employed.” Williams said. “I will miss teaching here, but leaving knowing that I changed these students’ lives for the better makes my experience here at Rock Bridge one of the most fulfilling of my entire life.”