Making an Impact Outside the Classroom

Zoey Pudenz, Managing Editor

At a young age, social sciences teacher Matthew Reitemeier would frequently visit the Piper Prairie Fire Department as his father was the department Chief. His love for climbing over the fire engines never faded as the years passed.

In 2019, Reitemeier trained to become a volunteer firefighter. However, according to Reitemeier, the word “volunteer” may throw people off as becoming one takes a lot of commitment and training.

“There is a lot involved in becoming a firefighter as it’s a second career for me and something I take very seriously,” Reitemeier said. “It requires hours of training, including national certifications for hazardous materials, medical, fire, and more. Essentially I am on-call anytime outside of school hours which can be pretty tough.” 

According to Reitemeier, besides all the great snacks people are always dropping off at the fire station, and driving the fire trucks, his favorite part about being a firefighter is getting to be alongside his dad, who is also a firefighter in Bonner Springs.

“One of the biggest reasons I became a firefighter was because of my dad,” Reitemeier said. “He has been a firefighter for well over 35 years and as I got older that feeling of excitement and love for the fire station never faded.”

According to Reitemeier, 70-75% of fire departments in the U.S. are volunteer departments, and many of them are short volunteers. For Reitemeier, helping others is another reason why he became not only a firefighter but a teacher.

“I have the best two jobs in the world, as a teacher and firefighter,” Reitemeier said. “I really enjoy teaching at Piper and can never see myself leaving here. However, I would really like to pursue a part-time position as a firefighter at a smaller department in the area if I can work around my schedule as a teacher, especially on weekends, over our holiday breaks, and summer break.

Sophomore Lilly Ladish has Reitemeier for her World History class. She is used to the busy schedule of being a teacher as her mom Carla Ladish teaches 4th grade at Piper Creek Elementary.

“It is very difficult to be a teacher, especially during this time,” Ladish said. “Most of the time they are not only working from 7:00-3:00 but they will always stay late, come early, and they are always working at home. I think Mr. Reitemeier being a firefighter as well as a teacher is amazing, and I don’t know how he keeps up with everything.”

A colleague who has become close with Reitemeier is technology teacher Brian Gray. They have known each other for 15 years and Gray stated that Reitemeier has talked about becoming a firefighter for a few years now.

“Mr. Reitemeier graduated from Piper High and he loves our community,” Gray said.  “He would do anything for his students and has a huge heart. Being a teacher requires a lot of time and dedication. When you add in firefighting and beekeeping that takes a ton of time. Coach R is a busy bee.”

Reitemeier also owns nine beehives. After creating a small orchard in his backyard, he researched ways to keep crop yields from the orchard. His solution? Bees.

“I love bees,” Reitemeier said. “They are absolutely incredible insects. I took some beekeeping classes, watched a lot of YouTube how-tos on beekeeping, and got my first box of bees four years ago, and have been hooked ever since. Plus, I love honey.”

Through all the challenges Reitemeier’s passion for what he does is what keeps him going.

“Firefighting is one of the best professions in the world besides teaching of course,” Reitemeier said. “There’s never a dull moment in my life. I love what I do and am passionate about teaching, beekeeping, and firefighting and I choose to do it all. So, even though there are tough and challenging days in all of those I wouldn’t trade what I do in life for anything.”