The Kentucky Association of Japanese Language Teachers selected Mariko Barnes of Lafayette High School (Fayette County) as the state’s Japanese Teacher of the Year. Barnes, a 14-year teaching veteran, created a Japanese cultural club where American students may interact with Japanese-speaking students to better understand language and culture.

Barnes is a native of Niigata Prefecture, Japan, where she graduated from Yamanashi University. She also earned a bachelor’s in mathematics education from Eastern Kentucky University. She is now in the running for 2020 Kentucky World Language Teacher of the Year, which will be announced Sept. 19.