- Nyree Clayton-Taylor, the 2019 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year, will work within KDE, visit schools and districts, learn about education policy and make appearances on behalf of the agency during her sabbatical.
- Clayton-Taylor said she is looking forward to learning from fellow educators and to sharing her own experiences.
By Mike Marsee
Nyree Clayton-Taylor makes a point of telling her students there is life beyond their neighborhood. Now she’s going to show them.
Clayton-Taylor, the 2019 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year, has begun a one-semester sabbatical with the Kentucky Department of Education that she hopes will expose her – and by extension her students – to something new.
She has taught in Jefferson County schools for 19 years, most recently working as a creative writing teacher at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, and she said she looks forward to the chance to visit other Kentucky schools.
“I just felt like it was a wonderful way for me to see not just Jefferson County, but the state of Kentucky,” Clayton-Taylor said. “I always tell my students that there is life outside of west Louisville, so I have to be a person of my own word and see life outside of Jefferson County.”
KDE offers the Kentucky Teacher of the Year a one-semester sabbatical or a suitable alternative. When Jessica Duenas, the 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, declined because she had started a job at the new W.E.B. DuBois Academy (Jefferson County), Clayton-Taylor was offered and accepted the sabbatical.
Clayton-Taylor joined the agency this week and is expected to be with KDE until May. During that time, she will work within KDE, visit schools and districts, learn about education policy and make appearances on behalf of the agency.
“This is such an honor, especially since many of my experiences mirror the same obstacles that often afflict our students in Kentucky,” Clayton-Taylor said. “I realize my role as the 2019 Kentucky Teacher Ambassador will bring a unique perspective to the state. I also feel the responsibility I have to my students and fellow teachers to bring an educator’s perspective, a student’s challenges and a teacher’s heart to the department of education.”
While at KDE, Clayton-Taylor looks forward to focusing on innovation, curriculum and the advancement of a culture of learning that engages elementary students of color in urban schools.
“Not only am I excited to use my experiences to help students in Kentucky, but I am also eager to learn from other educators with a viewpoint that differs from my own,” she said. “I will work as a teacher and a learner and use both positions to shape the learning of teachers, students, parents and leaders in my community.”
Clayton-Taylor said she is particularly looking forward to visiting schools in areas with significant African-American populations, such as Paducah and Covington.
“I would like to go into some classrooms and teach,” she said. “In my classroom in Jefferson County, I taught creative writing through hip-hop, so I would love to go into some other districts and teach students. I also have my eyes on becoming a principal, so I would like to see what other principals are doing and how they’re leading their schools.”
At the same time, she also wants to learn.
“I want to learn and I want a bird’s-eye view,” Clayton-Taylor said. “Not just a view from home, but I want to see how education policy affects the entire state.”
Clayton-Taylor said she hopes to bring her experience as a teacher from a school with a large population of students of color to her work within KDE. African-American students made up 84.4 percent of Wheatley Elementary’s student body in 2016-2017.
“The achievement gap is real, and I want to bring that perspective,” she said.
She said that when she speaks outside the agency, she will frequently talk about innovative ways to reach students.
“My message will be about innovation, using different ways to teach, not just out of a book,” Clayton-Taylor said. “My message will be about how we teach each child. Do we focus on reading? Yes, but in a way that entices students to learn.”
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