The Student News Site of Derby High School

Panther's Tale

The Student News Site of Derby High School

Panther's Tale

The Student News Site of Derby High School

Panther's Tale

Page 1 – Retirement (Keith’s Version): Keith Watkins leaves DHS as icon

Sophomore Dylan Utley admits that he used to be a bathroom dweller. You know, the type of person who avoids class by hanging out in the restroom.

He could count on getting shooed out of the bathroom by the security guard Keith Watkins. But Utley never got mad at Keith.

Very few people do.

“Every time I’d see him, I’d greet him and we would just talk about my day,” Utley said.

Keith is someone who will smile and wave in your direction, whether or not you’re in trouble.

“I know he’s doing his job, but he’s very respectful and kind to us (students). It almost seems like he’s not getting us in trouble,” sophomore Brynn Schreiber said.

Honestly, everybody loves Keith.

“Keith is the heart of Derby High, and when students look back on their high school experience, Keith is someone who every student will remember,” said Ashlee LaRue, a 2018 Derby alum and para.

Watkins takes care of business, but still knows how to have fun with the students at school.

“I’m not here to try and get them in trouble,” Keith said. “I just have a job to do and we’re going to do it, but on the other hand we communicate. And if they weren’t taught, they can talk with us about stuff.”

No matter if you’re a freshman or just new to the school, everyone knows Keith’s name because of his impact on the student body and the staff.

“Seeing his smile every day makes me more eager to go to school,” freshman Emmersyn Bonebrake said

Keith has been a security guard for 25 years after he retired from being a military security guard. About six months after moving to Derby, he became a security guard at DHS. His youngest daughter, Ruby, is a senior at DHS.

“I was retired from the military and I came back and I wanted to use my security, since that was my strength and so we moved to Derby because we heard that Derby was a better place than some of the Wichita schools,” Keith said.

Alongside security responsibilities, Keith helps direct student traffic going onto Madison, making sure they get onto the road safely.

“He seems like a cool person and he helps with the flow of traffic out of the school so people can get out faster and safely,” sophomore Ella Gardner said.

Students see what he does and admire him for it.

“(Keith) is fun and he just interacts with the student body. He’s also chill and not mean,” junior Nickole Newingham said.

Senior Logyn Slates added: “He’s just a really awesome guy and it’s crazy to think that he’s been here as long as he has been.”

Keith consistently makes connections with anyone at DHS.

“I was going to the vending machine and I only had fives and they didn’t take fives. So I saw Keith and asked him to give me some ones and he pulled out this stack of cash. He gave me a few dollars and said just to keep it,” Utley said.

Though this is Keith’s last year, he loves being here and seeing the student succeed.

“Just seeing the seniors for that year and seeing them move on and being happy, it makes me happy that they hung in there and did everything that they needed to do to graduate,” Keith said.

Those students will graduate and move on with their lives, but the impact that Keith had on them will never leave them.

“When I walked into Derby High as a student in 2016. I remember that day because he made me feel like I had a place at DHS,” LaRue said.

Keith’s impact goes further than student connections. The staff notices the little things Watkins does, too. 

Keith is a great guy and I love seeing his interactions with kids. The kids, even those who have a … colorful history with discipline, really seem to love and respect him,” teacher Abigail Belt said.

That’s just Keith.

“As a staff member, I now get to see him say hello to my Panther Pal students. Not only does he say hello, but he also fist bumps the students I work with,” LaRue said.

Keith is known to be very ‘fast’. Students and staff see him on one side of the building then all of a sudden he’s on the other side.

“I don’t know how he does it, I think he’s got some kind of teleport system in here that we don’t know about,” security guard Kelly Baney said.

Relations with Keith go farther back than one might think.

“I started going to school in the early 2000’s and Keith was a security guard back then, and I just built relationships with him,” security guard Matt Garvey said.

It won’t only be students who will miss Keith, but his fellow colleagues in security. 

“Keith is just a hard worker and he’s very consistent. He’s been here so long that he’s just part of the fabric of this place,” Baney said.

Keith wants to see the students succeed in life.

“We just want the school to be a place where students can grow and develop and try to pursue their dreams,” Keith said.

No matter if you know Keith or not, he’s an icon.

“They (students) talk with him and bring up old memories with him but I think it’s just a legend leaving,” Garvey said.

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