Richard Knoeppel was blindsided in the middle of his architectural design class on Wednesday.
But the surprise was a good one for Knoeppel: He is one of just five instructors nationwide who will be inducted this year into the National Teacher Hall of Fame.
It’s the latest in a string of awards that the 32-year educator at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas has won this school year, following his recognition in October as the Nevada Teacher of the Year.
“This year in and of itself has been extremely overwhelming with all of the accolades I’ve received,” he said after learning of the latest. “I’m extremely fortunate to work in such a phenomenal school with phenomenal students.”
The honor is in some ways even more impressive for the magnet school. Only two Nevada teachers have made it to the national hall of fame in Emporia, Kansas, and both of them taught at A-Tech, as the school is known. The late John Snyder received the recognition in 2007.
Knoeppel credited Snyder as a mentor who taught him to “pay it forward” after receiving recognition for your work.
“John was very good at that,” he said. “And that’s something, since I’ve been recognized for different things in the state of Nevada, that I’ve tried very, very hard to do.”
Knoeppel will become a member of the 28th class of inductees, bringing the total number of teachers inducted to 140 since 1992. The inductees will travel to Washington, D.C., later this year to meet with the Department of Education officials and their state delegations.
It’s easy for Knoeppel to find meaning in his work: all he has to do is take a look at the buildings built by former students in Clark County.
“Every day, I can get up and I can look at the Las Vegas Strip and I can see my impact,” he said. “Because a lot of the buildings that are there, a lot of the schools that are here in Clark County were designed and built by my former students.”
Students in his class working on a design project beamed as officials presented him with the award.
Rebecca Barboza, a junior, said Knoeppel is always looking out for the students and wants what’s best for them.
“If you were to look up a teacher — the definition of a teacher — that’s Mr. Knoeppel,” she said.