Ryan Diffee is South Side’s 2023-24 teacher of the year


Spanish teacher and Hawk alum Ryan Diffee is South Side’s 2023-24 teacher of the year. 

“Teaching here is special for me,” she told Hawk TV. “Being selected teacher of the year is super special for a lot of reasons, but mainly because there are so many amazing teachers here, and for me to be chosen as teacher of the year – I’m not sure that I deserve it.” 

Her peers thought otherwise as they nominated her for the award and then voted her the winner. 

“It’s a really special thing to be honored by my alma mater,” said Diffee, a 2001 South Side graduate. 

Ms. Diffee, now in her 19th year of teaching and seventh year at South Side, made her comments in an interview with Hawk TV’s Jordan Smith and production crew Kiara Harrington and Spencer Ammons.

Ms. Diffee was at Haywood for the first six years, in Nicaragua for two years and at UT Martin for four years before returning to teach at her alma mater. 

She has an undergraduate degree from Union University (2005) and a master’s degree from the University of Memphis (2011). 

Spanish teacher Ryan Diffee sits at her classroom desk at South Side High School on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. She was selected by her peers as South Side’s 2023-24 teacher of the year. (Photo by Kiara Harrington / HawkNation Network)

Ms. Diffee attended South Side from 1998 to 2001. Her favorite classes as a student were – no surprise here – Spanish classes, thanks in large part to teachers Lydia Burton and Paula Westbrook. English was a close second because she loves to read and write. Her fondest memories as a student are being a member of the band and playing in competitions and football games. 

As a teacher, one of her fondest memories is getting to ride in a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter, as well as the day-to-day interactions with students. 

Ms. Diffee teaches Spanish I this semester and will teach Spanish 2 next semester. 

She was one of four teachers nominated for the award, along with Jake Stoffregen, Kim Cagle, and Melissa Perry. She said the award is extra special because it comes from her teaching peers and the other nominees are amazing teachers, too.

And for the record, we asked Ms. Diffee to tell us her favorite Spanish word.  

Her answer: “escuincle.” 

Translation: “brat.” 

“Not that any of my students are brats,” she joked.