Kentucky’s 2022 Middle School Teacher of the Year Hallie Booth wanted to be a teacher since she was little. She was inspired to pursue the calling by her father, a health and physical education teacher, and her mother, a computer technology teacher.
Now in her 27th year in education, Booth has served in a variety of roles, including as a regional science lead for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). She currently is teaching 8th-grade science at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County).
In all her positions, Booth strives to help her students become whatever they aspire to be.
At the end of each year she tells her students, “Just because you leave my room, it does not mean I will not be there for you if you ever need anything.” Some students even return to Booth in later years for help studying in high school or college.
A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Booth earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice law enforcement, a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s in special education, an endorsement in K-9 science education and a Rank 1 in leadership.
Her high school chemistry teacher inspired her personal philosophy of teaching and learning by setting up a working partnership with the Kroger Technical Institute, where Booth and her classmates would leave school in the morning and work with Kroger on the development of products using the content knowledge learned in class.
“It was her class that changed my mind about science and my future,” said Booth. “Her idea was not to just lecture, but to connect us to real-world applications, allow exploration and learn the content through application.”
Booth said that while it can be difficult to connect middle school students to partnership opportunities, she has managed to find them.
When developing each teaching unit around the idea of exploration, Booth has students identify the direction of their exploration and plan what they will need to do in order to research their ideas and pose solutions. Booth then connects them with researchers, scientists, engineers and other professionals that help them accomplish their solutions and provide feedback.
During a unit on genetics, one of Booth’s students who expressed interest in the medical field said she wanted to explore more information on possible genetic disorders. Booth connected the student with a hospital geneticist and the student had the opportunity to assist the geneticist in her research. Today, that student is a genetic engineer.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) also is an important part of developing Booth’s classroom culture. She was taught by her parents that everyone has something with which they are dealing.
Years before she learned about SEL, Booth began to research ways she could help students manage their emotions. One book on behavior management suggested taking time to breathe and pausing before responding. Booth began to model and implement these tactics in her classroom.
“I began one day saying to them, ‘Guys I have had a rough morning, I just need a minute. Can you all give me a minute to just breathe and get myself together?’” said Booth.
She later showed her students how to count to 10 before responding to someone when she was frustrated.
Although her students were skeptical in the beginning, Booth continued to model these methods for several weeks. Eventually, her students began to request breathing moments at the start of each class.
“It was amazing to watch and see the overall students’ behaviors decrease as they began to learn different ways to react to situations,” said Booth.
Booth’s advice to her fellow educators is to never pass up an opportunity.
“We are the role models for them, always continuing to learn ourselves, try new things and share with our students, make mistakes and learn from them,” said Booth. “Above all, take the opportunities given no matter how uncomfortable it might make us feel, and treat every student as though they are our own child.”
Booth resides in Fort Mitchell with her husband, Jim, and enjoys being a grandmother.