As an English, arts and humanities teacher in Eastern Kentucky, Cathy Conley is no stranger to adversity. But the most trying year for Conley was during the historic flooding in July 2022.
As the school year was about to begin, torrential rain destroyed instructional materials and water flooded the first floor of Knott County Central High School. Despite the devastating losses, Conley bravely embraced the challenge and continued to teach and mentor her students.
“Teachers and students were guiding each other and working together,” she said. “The flood made us a tighter community.”
Conley has spent 26 of her 27-year teaching career at Knott County Central High School. As a descendant of multiple educators, she said she is honored to follow in her family’s footsteps.
“My mom, Sandy Conley, was a teacher. She retired after 33 years in the classroom,” she said, “My great grandfather taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Knott County in the mid-1800s.”
Conley received a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a Rank I supervisor of instruction from Morehead State University. She started substitute teaching at Knott County Central High School at age 19.
“My favorite part about teaching is seeing students grow and develop a love for reading and writing,” said Conley.
In addition to teaching, Conley was named a 2023 Teacher Achievement Award winner. In 2017, she was inducted into the Freedom Writers Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing literacy and writing skills for educators and students.
She has written two books, including “Little Evie in the Garden” (2020) and “Little Evie and the Box Supper” (2021). Through her affiliation with the Freedom Writers Foundation, she also co-wrote “Dear Freedom Writer” (2022) with one of her students.
When she is not in the classroom, Conley enjoys supporting local musicians and spending time with her 3-year-old nephew.