March 2021 Winner - Kimberly Ridinger :(Northeast Lauderdale Middle School)


Meridian Family of Stations -

Meridian Star Article

Kimberly Ridinger became an educator not just to teach, but to inspire her students like a teacher did for her.

"I decided to become an educator because I had a rough childhood growing up, and a teacher is what got me through," she said. "I decided to pay it forward and be like those teachers who helped me when I was a kid."

That desire to help students has earned the Northeast Lauderdale Middle math teacher the Golden Apple award for March. A Jackson native, Ridinger has been teaching for the last 11 years, the last six at Northeast. She's also taught in Forest and Meridian.

Ridinger said she's always been good at math, but one teacher influenced her to be a professional educator. One year in high school, she was having a hard time and often missed class, but her geometry teacher stepped in.

"She went the extra mile to really help me," she recalled. "She pulled me out of P.E., which I hated at the time. She really helped me to be able to succeed in that class."

A nomination from a colleague describes Ridinger as a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students.

Ridinger helps student Alex Ford during math class.

"This is a type of teacher who arrives at school early and doesn't leave until almost dark," the letter states. "I truly mean it when I say I've never met a teacher who does so much for her students."

In her classroom, Ridinger uses an interactive teaching style to engage her students. Students play math games, create shapes with Play-Do and take part in other creative activities.

Teaching is also about building relationships with students, Ridinger emphasized.

"My philosophy is basically everybody can learn and everyone has the ability to learn and have the best education that can be provided to them," she said.

She also lets her students know that failing an assignment can help them become better learners.

"You might fail on that assignment, but I try to help them grow and see that one low assignment or mistake doesn't mean you completely failed the whole thing," she said. "You can grow from it."

Ridinger said she wakes everyday thinking about teaching and couldn't imagine doing anything else.

"My students are the reason why I'm here and the reason why I give," she said.