Ribbens inspired with energetic teaching


Matt Petres

After 21 years of interactive P.E. teaching, Debbie Ribbens will retire. She plans to continue her active and energetic lifestyle.

Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu, Editor-in-Chief

Bright and early at a quarter to 7, an hour before school starts, P.E. teacher Debbie Ribbens begins setting up pickleball for a first period class of high schoolers, laying out materials and putting up nets. Arriving early to set up for class is just one way that she maintains a structured, active and energetic life.

She said that the students are the ones who push her and energize her.

“I never want them to be waiting on me. I should be waiting on them,” she said. “That’s why you’re a teacher — it’s about the kids.”

In her 21 years as a teacher and coach at Lab, Ms. Ribbens said it has changed in numerous ways.She says athletic programming has improved, team sport enrollment has increased and the P.E. department has grown. Even as she prepares for retirement this June, what has not changed is her excitement for her role. Her connection with her students is fueled by an enthusiastic mindset, one centered around an active lifestyle.

She said it gives her joy to see her students, ranging from 3rd to 11th grade, progress and develop through various stages of their lives. 

“It’s a dream job,” Ms. Ribbens said. “It’s been a real honor and privilege to be able to see students in elementary school and then be able to teach them again in high school and see how they’ve developed and grown into mature young adults.”

Married couple Debbie Ribbens and Dave Ribbens are retiring at the end of the year. Debbie Ribbens, a P.E. teacher, has worked at Lab for 21 years and Dave Ribbens, director of athletics, has worked at Lab for 20 years. The two have been married for 43 years. Matt Petres

Despite the difficulties that come with teaching such a wide range of ages, Ms. Ribbens finds that it makes her work interesting. This allows her to find specific enjoyment in each level she teaches on a day-to-day basis. On the same day she may go from classroom management with her lower schoolers to giving fitness tips with her high schoolers.

“It’s kind of a nice transition that you see, it’s never boring. I think if I was teaching the same grade and the same thing all day long, it might be a little boring for me,” she said. “They’re all doing something different. It’s kind of exciting for me. I look forward every day to coming to school.”

Sophomore Bryce Light, who had Ms. Ribbens last year and for a tennis elective this year, said during class she was always active and enthusiastic when it came to activities or exercises. 

“She always kept our class engaged, and she was super active during P.E.,” he said. “I remember a couple of weeks ago, we were having a duo tennis tournament in P.E. and the team my partner and I were up against was missing a player, so Ms. Ribbens stepped in and played. They ended up winning, but it was still super fun.”

This philosophy of continuous and energetic activity is one of the key aspects of Ms. Ribbens’ life, influencing the way she teaches.

“I’m big in fitness. I really try to take every class you can ever imagine, because I want to be the best person I can be for my students,” she said. “When teaching physical education, I try to practice what I preach.”

Nichole Magliocco, a fellow P.E. teacher, has known Ms. Ribbens since coming to Lab eight years ago. She said over the years, she’s learned so much from Ms. Ribbens’ many years of experience at the school.

“She helped me so much with how she engages with the kids and just seeing them grow through high school,” she said. “They love her at all levels. She’s a fun teacher. She also is very well respected as a teacher.”

Ms. Magliocco said Ms. Ribbens’ guidance assists her to connect with students and watch them develop.

“She offers students a chance to grow, also to be themselves. They’re very comfortable with her,” she said. “A lot of kids come to her, especially high school, to ask her about fitness, things that she really can help such a wide variety of students with.”

Over her career, Ms. Ribbens says she’s learned to not take herself so seriously and has some advice for her fellow teachers.

“Always have fun in everything that you’re doing,” she said, “because if you’re having a good time, then your students are having a good time.”