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Superheroes help Johnson Elementary succeed

Second-grade student Ava Houze displays her paint covered hands during Nikki Everett's art class at Johnson Elementary School (Fort Thomas Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 21, 2014

Second-grade student Ava Houze displays her paint-covered hands during Nikki Everett’s art class at Johnson Elementary School (Fort Thomas Independent).
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 21, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

Robert D. Johnson Elementary students know why their school was named a 2014 National Blue Ribbon school.

It’s school mascot J.J. the Jaguar, the “very caring counselor,” the instructional assistants, the “lunch ladies,” the custodians and, of course, the teachers.

Those are just some of the reasons that students wrote on paper ribbons taped to the gymnasium walls as the Fort Thomas Independent school celebrated the award recently.

“Teachers make learning fun even though we are really working,” read one ribbon.

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Edcamp light on structure, heavy on learning

Eminence Elementary School (Eminence Independent) 5th-grade teacher Donnie Piercey checks-in Johnna Scogin, a Scott County teacher, during the EdCamp Kentucky conference in Bardstown. Photo by James Allen/Oldham County Schools, Oct. 25, 2014

Eminence Elementary School (Eminence Independent) 5th-grade teacher Donnie Piercey checks in Johnna Scogin, a Scott County teacher, during the EdCamp Kentucky conference in Bardstown. Photo by James Allen/Oldham County Schools, Oct. 25, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education .ky.gov

Would you go to a conference if you didn’t know who the speakers would be, what the sessions would be about or even how long it would last – on a Saturday?

Nearly 200 teachers from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana did just that recently at the first Edcamp Kentucky at Thomas Nelson High School in Bardstown.

“Edcamp is what’s called an unconference,” said Donnie Piercey, a 5th-grade teacher at Eminence Independent Schools and camp organizer. “At Edcamp there’s no set schedule until the day of.”

Participants volunteer to facilitate discussions and sessions are scheduled as the conference begins. At Thomas Nelson, teachers quickly filled a Google spreadsheet with 21 session topics such as paperless schools, the Voxer app, school counseling, project-based learning, “gamifying” the classroom, Google Apps and more.

“It’s rethinking what professional development is supposed to look like,” said Piercey, who is also a technology integration specialist at Eminence. “It’s meant to be a place where teachers can come in kind of a laid-back atmosphere and really share ideas with one another, find out what’s new and connect with teachers from across the state.”

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Ky. Teacher of the Year makes school an adventure

Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year Faye Smith of Campbell County Middle School, Kentucky Teacher of the Year Sarah Reed of Field Elementary School (Jefferson County) and Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year Joshua Underwood of Mason County High School were presented with their awards at the Capitol. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 23, 2014

Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year Faye Smith of Campbell County Middle School, Kentucky Teacher of the Year Sarah Reed of Field Elementary School (Jefferson County) and Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year Joshua Underwood of Mason County High School receive their awards at the Capitol.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 23, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

After growing up in a family of educators, Sarah Reed wanted to go her own way. She worked as a paralegal, a nanny and a secretary, but none of those jobs made her happy.

Then she enrolled at a teaching college.

“That’s when I really found my passion,” she said. And thousands of students in Jefferson County are thankful that she did.

Now in her 18th year of teaching, Reed was named the 2015 Kentucky Teacher of the Year last week in a ceremony in Frankfort. Faye Smith, an 8th-grade math teacher at Campbell County Middle School, was named Middle School Teacher of the Year and Joshua Underwood, who teaches chemistry at Mason County High School, was named High School Teacher of the Year.

Reed, who will represent the state in the national Teacher of the Year contest, receives $10,000 and will be offered a semester sabbatical. Smith and Underwood receive $3,000 each.

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New standards a new challenge for science teachers

By Peter Mathews
peter.mathews@education.ky.gov

For Kentucky science teachers, the hard work of implementing the new Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science means a chance to give students a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and what scientists do.

“The challenge for a lot of science teachers is how do we put the control in the kids’ hands, get them thinking, and how do we get them to do the heavy lifting of the thinking and the drawing conclusions?” said David Grossman, a 7th-grade teacher at T.K. Stone Middle School (Elizabethtown Independent).

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Teachers get lesson from workforce partners

Mark McKinney, left, a mechanical engineer and a pre-calculus teacher at Jeffersontown High School (Jefferson County) discussed the operating procedure of a CNC machine with the machine's operator at Altas Machine and Supply Inc. Photo by Tim Thornberry, July 16, 2014

Mark McKinney, left, a mechanical engineer and a pre-calculus teacher at Jeffersontown High School (Jefferson County), discussed the operating procedure of a CNC machine with the machine’s operator at Altas Machine and Supply Inc.
Photo by Tim Thornberry, July 16, 2014

By Tim Thornberry
tim.thornberry@education.ky.gov

The old saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is true in a lot of situations, but teachers in the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) took it to a new level this past summer as several participated in a professional learning  program that took them into more than 20 businesses and industries throughout Louisville.

Deborah Anderson, the engineering career theme specialist for JCPS, headed this externship effort to bring the academic and technical training worlds together.

“This training will hopefully give our academic instructors new insight into the Career and Technical side of education,” she said.

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‘Nothing less than excellence,’ educator urges

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.Kelly@education.ky.gov

Educators should be excellent on purpose.

That’s what former principal Baruti Kafele told more than 700 Kentucky educators recently during the Continuous Improvement Summit in Lexington.

“The intentionality of what we do is crucial,” said Kafele, who led turnarounds at four inner-city New Jersey schools before leaving the principal’s office in 2011 to become a motivational speaker, author and education consultant.

Educators need to be intentional about what students see, feel, hear and experience because those things matter and they matter more than content, Kafele said.

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Veteran mentors help keep new teachers in field

When Melissa Richards, left, was a 1st-year teacher at Stuart Middle School (Jefferson County) Sandra Meadors, right, served as her mentor. Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 24, 2014

When Melissa Richards, left, was a first-year teacher at Stuart Middle School (Jefferson County), Sandra Meadors, right, served as her mentor.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 24, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

When Melissa Richards walked into her classroom at Stuart Middle School four years ago, she wasn’t just a first-year teacher fresh out of college; she was also new Louisville resident with no friends or family nearby.

“I didn’t know anything about the city except that they had the Kentucky Derby,” said Richards, 8th-grade social studies teacher at the Jefferson County school.

But luckily, administrators at her new school had just implemented a mentoring program designed to support novice teachers by pairing them with veteran educators.

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Ky. History Teacher of the Year brings past to life

Student teacher Kevin Presnell and Kentucky History Teacher of the Year Sharon Graves pass out cocoa powder during her 8th-grade social studies class at Clark-Moores Middle School (Madison County). The students were learning about the exchange of cultures after Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas. Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 24, 2014

Student teacher Kevin Presnell and Kentucky History Teacher of the Year Sharon Graves pass out cocoa powder during her 8th-grade social studies class at Clark-Moores Middle School (Madison County). The students were learning about the exchange of cultures after Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 24, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

Students in Sharon Graves’ 8th-grade social studies classes don’t just learn about U.S. history, they live it.

Students become bullets flying through the air during a Civil War battle, passengers on the Mayflower coming to a new continent or colonists choosing where and how to build a community.

“She makes history so fun and engaging,” said Kevin Presnell, one of Graves’ former students. “It’s really about the experience and not just about the content, which is what makes it so fun.”

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Other school professionals test-drive PGES

Library media specialist Heidi Neltner talks into a whisper phone while reading

Library media specialist Heidi Neltner talks into a whisper phone while reading Count The Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell with kindergarten students at Johnson Elementary School (Ft. Thomas Independent).
Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 17, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

Heidi Neltner is one of The Others.

She’s not part of a mysterious tribe on the tropical island where survivors of a plane crash were stranded in the television show “Lost.” She’s a school librarian – one of five categories of “other” professionals who will begin using Kentucky’s new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) this year.

More than 1,000 library media specialists, counselors, speech pathologists, psychologists and instructional coaches are piloting the system before it’s implemented for the 2015-16 school year.

For most, it will be the first time they will be measured using criteria specific to their field.

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Old dwellings bring new understanding of world

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

This fall, students in Lynn Lockard’s 6th-grade social studies class will get to be nosy people. They will investigate dwellings to learn about how people lived in the past.

“When you think about people’s homes, you really can learn a lot about the people, their culture, their beliefs and what they are interested in,” said Lockard, a middle school social studies teacher at Barbourville City School (Barbourville Independent).

She was one of 14 teachers from the Lake Cumberland region who participated in a weeklong academy this summer designed to teach educators how to engage students by using inquiry-based instruction.

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