ARCANUM — Kirby Tipple has been with Arcanum-Butler Local Schools for 15 years, he said, but after missing out on much of his older three children’s school activities, he wants to take the opportunities he has left to be closer to home and more involved with his younger two children.
His first seven years in education were spent at Union High School in Modoc, Indiana, teaching science; it was a small district, and the benefits weren’t great, he said, so he moved on to work in the private sector, doing training for a casket manufacturer.
“I felt like a square peg in a round hole,” Tipple said of his job training employees. “I missed the classroom. I think teachers have a really cool opportunity to make a difference in kids’ lives…I didn’t feel like I was making a difference, where I was.”
Tipple said there was an opportunity for expansion at his company, and he’d spent about a year putting in the work to make it happen when he learned that the training, the programs and the time weren’t going to pan out in the end. Tipple’s boss told him that he could keep his position, and his pay, he could become a supervisor, or because he was studying to earn his master’s in education anyway, he could go back into education.
Things worked out, Tipple said, with a position opening in Arcanum. And while he wasn’t sure he wanted to make an hour drive to and from work each day, Tipple said he felt like Arcanum was where he was meant to be, for a number of reasons.
“I thought, ‘God can’t work if I’m sitting on my hands,’” Tipple recalled.
So he contacted Mr. Combs, the high school principal at the time, and had an extensive conversation, followed by a request for an interview.
“We started talking about my oldest son, who has Williams Syndrome; not a lot of people have any idea what that is,” Tipple explained. “The fact that Mr. Combs knew about it, that was the deciding factor for me, this was where I was supposed to be.”
Tipple began teaching biology and anatomy and physiology in the fall of 1999, he said. He earned his principals’ license in 2005 and began to look once again at where his future was leading. He said 2005 was his last year teaching, and he “went out with a bang,” earning Teacher of the Year both at Arcanum and for Darke County.
At this time, Arcanum went through a lot of administrative turnover, he said, and Mr. Combs accepted the superintendency, leaving a vacancy for a high school principal, as well as a middle school principal. Already having a two-hour commute, Tipple didn’t feel he could commit to all that a high school principal must commit to and opted to fill the middle school position.
“It was a great, great time to be at Butler,” Tipple recalled. “I got to do a lot of hiring of new teachers, but I also got to be a part of designing the new building and planning for that whole move… I was the last principal at a building built in 1926 and the first principal in this brand new building. It was a big change, going from a dated building that was simply being kept functional through retro-fitting, to this new building with all of this technology. It was a huge leap forward. When we first moved over to the new building, it was a learning process for everyone. Now, it’s seamless. It’s been very neat to see that transition.”
Now, Tipple wants an opportunity to take part in his younger children’s school activities, so he has accepted a position as the assistant principal for the junior high and high school at Monroe Central in Parker City, Indiana, a 10 minute commute, as opposed to the hour that it takes to get to Arcanum, he said.
“I hope that I had a part of making a difference in the lives of those I have had an opportunity to work with over the past 15 years at Arcanum and am looking forward to doing the same at Monroe Central,” Tipple said.
He’ll have different responsibilities from his position at Arcanum, he said, but many will remain the same. He’ll also have more time at home, he added, which his family will have to adjust to, he joked.
“There are some things I used to do that I had to give up because of the time I spent at work,” Tipple stated. “I’m hoping to reconnect and get back into those things. I’m also hoping to spend more time with my family, they’re important to me, and a big part of why I made the decision to find something closer to home. My wife and I will be married 27 years in August, and 15 of those years, I’ve been making that drive to Arcanum. It will probably be a big change for my family, seeing me more.”
Another big part of Tipple’s life is raising awareness for Williams Syndrome, a condition present at birth that is characterized by medical problems that may include cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities. Typically those affected by Williams Syndrome have “striking verbal abilities,” and very sociable personalities, as well as an affinity for music. Tipple began an annual car show to raise awareness, Wheels for Williams is held each May, and Tipple hand makes the trophies for the winners, he said.