2018 Kansas
Master Teachers

Connstance Allmond

High Incident/Intellectual Disability Teacher
USD 490 El Dorado

Deanna K. Burton

Social Studies Teacher
USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden

Abby Cornelius

Library Media Specialist
USD 229 Blue Valley

Todd Flory

Fourth-Grade Teacher
USD 385 Andover

Chitra Harris

Science Teacher
USD 259 Wichita

Matthew Irby

Science Teacher
USD 253 Emporia

Kimberly S. Schneweis

Visual Art Teacher
USD 489 Hays

Kansas Master Teacher Award



Matthew Irby

2018 Kansas Master Teacher

Science Teacher
Emporia High School
USD 253 Emporia



Despite growing up with educator parents who are still teaching today, Matthew Irby thought he would go into a health-related field, getting a bachelor’s degree in science. After admitting to himself he was not passionate about this area, he reflected on how fulfilled his parents were by their jobs.

That reflection, coupled with his enjoyment of coaching kids through the local rec center, provided Irby the impetus to make a change: he went back to school to get a degree in education. In this, he has found his passion.

“If I’m not finding hands-on resources to make the learning memorable and meaningful, I’m doing a disservice to my students and not giving them the true experience of what science is: trying to show and explain the processes which make life possible and remarkable,” Irby states.

Irby began teaching in 2004 after earning two bachelor’s degrees from Emporia State University. He earned his master’s in educational administration from Emporia State in 2013. He has spent his career at Emporia High School teaching a variety of science courses such as genetics, biomedical innovation, zoology, biology, and microbiology.

Irby structures his lessons to cause students to experience the wonder of science. Rather than just hearing classroom lectures, watching videos, or reading textbooks, he uses hands-on learning experiences, such as extracting pigments from plants to witness photosynthesis or using thermocyclers to analyze DNA. Irby’s network of local professionals enables students to job shadow and discover jobs and careers previously unknown to them.

His teaching philosophy is simple: students may have different backgrounds, but their needs are mostly the same. Embracing new challenges and having the desire to become a better teacher is what motivates him.

“He is a visionary, a motivator, and a great role model,” writes an administrator about Irby. Another colleague describes him as a “student individualizer, educational entrepreneur, and educational humorist.”

A former student, now a pre-pharmacy student in college, said his classes covered subjects at a college level, “I was able to enter freshman year with experience and confidence.”