By Mike Marsee
Lisa Lamb could see very early on that her daughter Ashley had a love for learning, so it didn’t surprise her that Ashley discovered a love for teaching as well.
Ashley Lamb-Sinclair’s pursuit of knowledge led her to start down several career paths before she embarked on a career in education that led to her being named the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.
Lisa Lamb said her daughter is every bit as much a student as a teacher.
“I always told her if I was a millionaire, she’d be a professional student,” Lamb said. “She loved to learn and then she wanted to teach others.”
Lamb-Sinclair, who teaches English and creative writing at North Oldham High School (Oldham County), was named the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year last week at a ceremony in Frankfort.
Teaching was not Lamb-Sinclair’s first career choice, however. Her mother said she initially wanted to be a lawyer, and Lamb-Sinclair said she considered a number of options before turning to teaching.
“At some point in college, after, like, 25 different majors, I realized that I needed to just do what I always knew I needed to do and was avoiding,” Lamb-Sinclair said. “I had a lot of ideas, but ultimately I’m one of those people who was just born to teach. There’s nothing else for me.”
Lamb-Sinclair is in her 10th year as a teacher and her fourth year at North Oldham. She previously taught at Bryan Station High School (Fayette County) and Myers Middle School (Jefferson County).
She was chosen from among 24 educators who received Ashland Inc. Kentucky Teacher Achievement Awards in a program co-sponsored by Ashland and the Kentucky Department of Education.
Joshua DeWar, a 2nd-grade teacher at Engelhard Elementary School (Jefferson County), was named the 2016 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Karen Mallonee, a world language/Spanish teacher at College View Middle School (Daviess County), is the 2016 Middle School Teacher of the Year.
“Our most important assets in education are the teachers in the classrooms. These teachers honored here today represent the best of the best in Kentucky,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt said at the awards ceremony. “Even with tight resources and a continual push to make sure all students are ready for college and career, Kentucky’s teachers are proving high student achievement is possible.”
Lamb-Sinclair, who will represent Kentucky in the national teacher of the year competition, received $10,000 and will be offered a one-semester sabbatical. DeWar and Mallonee received $3,000 each, and the other 21 Teacher Achievement Award winners received $500 each.
“It definitely validates the work that every teacher puts in,” Lamb-Sinclair said. “I feel like I’m just a representative of a bigger workforce, of people who spend their day-to-day life putting energy into kids.”
She said she was infused with that energy at an early age.
“I love learning; my family values learning. I was one of those people who just loved school,” she said.
Lamb-Sinclair said her years as a student in the Danville Independent schools provided her with ample opportunity and inspiration.
“I cannot tell you one favorite teacher, because I truly have about 25. It’s just a phenomenal school district that is doing so much for kids,” she said.
She said she also draws inspiration from her work environment at North Oldham High.
“I’m at the best school,” Lamb-Sinclair said. “North Oldham is a true professional hub. It’s the place where I have felt treated the most like a professional, by the administration, by my colleagues, by the community. Teachers are respected and valued, and teachers get a lot of freedom because of that.”
Lamb-Sinclair, a National Board-certified teacher, is an Innovator with the Redesign Challenge through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an Innovative Teacher Leader and Next Generation Instructional Design cohort member, both through the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, and the developer of Connect, a program aimed a reconnecting reluctant learners.
In partnership with Louisville Literary Arts and Sarabande Books Inc., a nonprofit literary press in Louisville, she has co-created 502LitNews, a newsletter that seeks to engage the Louisville Literary Community.
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky, and she was a Fulbright Scholar to Thailand and an Oxford Scholar through the English-Speaking Union.
“She still looks for all the learning she can get,” her mother said.
Lamb-Sinclair said she wants her students to be just like her in that regard, saying she hopes they leave her classes with “a lifelong love of learning and a passion just to learn and be curious and creative.”
ABOUT THE TEACHER ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
This is the 15th year that Ashland Inc. and the Kentucky Department of Education have co-sponsored the Kentucky Teacher Achievement Awards. Applications for the program were distributed across the state and the first tier of the selection process was completed in August, with 24 teachers selected as Teacher Achievement Award winners.
Nine top scorers — three each from the elementary, middle and high school levels — were selected and teams of educators visited their classrooms to view them at work and conduct personal interviews. From those nine, three were selected as 2015 Kentucky Teachers of the Year. The selection of the overall Kentucky Teacher of the Year was based on the compilation of scores from all phases of judging.
About $727,000 has been awarded to more than 500 teachers in grades K-12 since Ashland began recognizing outstanding Kentucky teachers in 1988.
MORE INFO …
Ashley Lamb-Sinclair firstname.lastname@example.org
Joshua DeWar email@example.com
Karen Mallonee firstname.lastname@example.org