Four Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) educators earned high-level honors in 2021 from state and national organizations.
National Gifted Coordinator Award
Julie Gann, FCPS’ coordinator for gifted and talented (GT) education, was awarded the 2021 Gifted Coordinator Award by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Gann accepted the award in November 2021 at the NAGC annual convention.
“I was very surprised yet so incredibly honored by this award,” said Gann. “My philosophy on gifted education is to continuously provide opportunity and access to gifted programming for all students. By ensuring these opportunities, it allows us to provide equity through best practices within the context of the state of Kentucky’s gifted and talented regulation.”
Gann has served as district GT coordinator for three years. Previously, Gann was a district GT instructional specialist and a GT resource teacher in FCPS for 10 years. She has also worked in Richmond, Virginia; and in Orlando, Fort Myers, and her native West Palm Beach, Florida, where she taught elementary students and English Learners. Gann earned a bachelor’s degree from Troy University (Alabama) and a master’s degree from the University of the Cumberlands (UC).
NAGC’s mission is to support individuals who enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building and research.
Air Force Association Kentucky Teacher of the Year
The Air Force Association (AFA) selected Matthew Simpson of Eastside Technical Center as its 2021 State Teacher of the Year for Kentucky. An aviation and drone instructor, Simpson joined FCPS about in 2020 as Eastside established its aviation/unmanned aerial systems program.
“I was humbled and grateful for having the opportunity to apply for such a prestigious award,” he said. “My approach to teaching is to relate to the students and try to understand where they are coming from. We like to be hands-on and train on the Redbird simulator the same way you would be taught in an actual training session in a Cessna 172 aircraft.”
Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky (UK). He is also a certified flight instructor and commercial pilot. Simpson volunteers his time mentoring youngsters through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass and coaching football in Bourbon County.
The AFA, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization, recognizes classroom teachers for exciting K-12 students about science, technology, engineering and math fields, and for preparing students to use and contribute to new technologies.
Kentucky School Social Worker of the Year
Serena Culbertson of Winburn Middle School was awarded Kentucky’s 2021 School Social Worker of the Year. She accepted the award in September 2021.
“I feel so very thankful to be a school social worker and to have the opportunity to work with students and families. It is so incredible to have a profession where I can spend my career empowering others and advocating for changes,” she said. “It’s such a joy and a challenge to get to collaborate with others to continue to improve systems so that the needs of families and students can be better addressed.”
A native of Temple, Texas, Culbertson attended middle school and high school in Elizabethtown. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University and a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University. Culbertson has worked in FCPS since 2006 and also has experience as a guidance specialist and a behavior resource specialist in the district’s Safe Schools Office.
The award is administered by the Kentucky Association of School Social Work, a partner of the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA). SSWAA aims to empower school social workers and promote the profession to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of all students nationally and globally.
KySHAPE P.E. Teacher of the Year
Jordan Manley, a high school physical education instructor at The STEAM Academy, was awarded Kentucky’s 2021 High School P.E. Teacher of the Year. Manley was presented the award in November 2021.
A native of Lexington, Manley earned a bachelor’s degree from UK and a master’s degree from the UC. He started his teaching career in 2015 at STEAM. He currently serves as the wellness teacher, elective department chair and intramurals director.
“My program is to help students develop their identity as a physically active person,” he said. “They have access to physical education classes, CrossFit electives, health education classes, and intramural sports and fitness clubs to facilitate a well-rounded physical education.”
Adding social and emotional learning components to physical education, Manley uses an app called miMove to help students explore how physical activity brings meaning to their life.