Choir teacher announces long-term leave of absence

In an email sent to choir families on Sept. 18, choir director Beth Richey-Sullivan said she will be taking a leave of absence from teaching beginning Oct. 2.


Photo by Lola Shipman

Choir director Beth Richey-Sullivan conducts the choir students during the National Anthem before the Husky Night parade in August of 2019.

Megan Yates, News Editor

In her email sent out to choir students and their parents, choir director Beth Richey-Sullivan said her decision to leave Northwest was not an easy one. Richey said it comes after acknowledging that she can not continue to grow the choir program while dealing with personal issues outside of school. 

“This decision does not come lightly, however, my family needs me,” Richey said in her email. “There are many personal situations at home which are requiring more of my attention than I can give while maintaining and growing the BVNW Choir Community.” 

Richey was entering her fifth year of teaching. Before Northwest, Richey said she worked as the choir director for a school in California for eight years and then taught at Overland Trail Middle School for one year. 

In her place, Richey said a long term sub will be hired, meanwhile Dr. Kurt Knecht will still serve as the collaborative pianist. 

Further along in her email, Richey addressed her students, saying how she knows the difficulties of change but hopes that they will be considerate and patient while dealing with the new adjustments. 

“To my students: Change is hard. I want you to remember the following life lesson. During any transition, be gracious,” Richey said. “Be respectful and kind, always, to the new director as they take over this program.”

Junior Natalie Policky, a member of the chambers and chorale choir programs, said she found out about Richey leaving during her chamber class. Policky said she was surprised and upset by the announcement. 

“I was shocked, I did not see that coming especially since she said she was planning on staying at Northwest until she retired,” Policky said. “I was so upset about her leaving. She has done a lot for me and so to see her go now made me upset.” 

Richey’s kindness and love for her students were a few qualities Policky said she admired.

“She is a super caring person, she cares about every single one of her students and how they are doing, she has always let us know that she is there if we need to talk,” Policky said. “That is admirable about a teacher, I feel like with a lot of teachers you can’t just go talk to them if you need to, but I have just made that connection with her.” 

Policky said her favorite memories of Richey were attending the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) with her and celebrating with her when Policky made the national choir. 

In an interview with Richey conducted later by BVNW news, Richey mentioned telling Policky about her making the national choir as an example of one of Richey’s biggest accomplishments as a teacher. 

“As a teacher, my biggest accomplishment is watching my students succeed so when I got to tell Natalie about national [choir], those are the moments that get you up in the morning, to celebrate when kids are successful or to help or to be that person they know they can come and talk to, those are the biggest accomplishments I think,” Richey said. 

With the next choir director, Policky said she hopes the new teacher has the same passion for music that Richey has and that the compassionate trait Richey had will be evident in the new director as well. 

“I hope that she has that sense of passion for music that Ms. Richey does, she has helped us grow into the musicians we are today. I hope [the new director] shows the caring and compassionate traits that Ms. Richey showed.” 

Policky also expressed how she wanted the new director to have an understanding that students will need time to adjust to the change, but that eventually they will grow to love whoever takes over the role. 

“It is always hard when a new teacher comes through when all of the kids who had the last teacher liked her and were sad to see her go,” Policky said. “So I hope [the new director] has an understanding of how shocking this is for us, but that over time we are going to grow to love them, no matter if they are different from [Richey] or not.”

As for her hopes for her students, Richey pointed out how blessed the NW community is and how students should take advantage of the opportunities they are given with music. 

“The students here are very blessed in the fact that you’ve got any resources at your fingertips,” Richey said. “There are a ton of resources available for people to do music and love music and I just hope students continue to take advantage of that, the opportunity that has been put in front of them, to create music and do something bigger than themselves.” 

Richey said her leave of absence is for the entirety of the school year and that by spring of next year, she will have to decide on whether or not to return.