High School Teacher Achievement Award Winner, Sara Peyton, Rowan High School (Rowan county)

Sara Heather Peyton, a history teacher at Rowan County High School and a 2024 Kentucky Teacher Achievement Award winner, has spent 13 years in the classroom. She started her career at Leestown Middle (Fayette County) in 1998 and after three years she decided to spend the next decade at home with her family.

Peyton returned to the classroom in 2013 with the purpose of instilling community and inclusiveness, as she taught her own children. She is dedicated to improving her students’ roles as citizens and emphasizes the importance of teaching students to be invested in their local communities. 

 “As a history teacher, I have a very real awareness of how imperative it is to teach students that becoming responsible and being involved citizens in their community, is one of the most important lessons they will learn,” she said. 

Peyton is a member of a council for leading professional development in her district. She also conducted a meeting with the Morehead mayor and her students to share their ideas and issues within the community.  

Peyton, who teaches the student leadership class at Rowan County High School, requires her students to volunteer to prepare them to be active and passionate about their communities and the rest of the world. Over the years, her students have volunteered at places like the Rowan County recycling center, domestic abuse shelters, homeless shelters, city parks, youth runaway shelters, the local American Legion post and an animal shelter.  

By adding this requirement, she said her students get a “glimpse of how much individuals can accomplish on a local level, whether politically, civically or simply as a volunteer.” 

Peyton’s commitment to her students’ personal development goes beyond the classroom.  

In 2021 and 2022, she collaborated with a Morehead State University professor to train Rowan County teachers using the Community Action Poverty Simulation, a live action role play training to understand the impact of poverty in a community. She said she was inspired to start this professional development after realizing that to correctly educate students on complex issues like racial inequality and poverty, the teachers have to be educated on the topic as well.  

“When you strip away all of the politicization of our profession, our end goal is and has always been to produce educated citizens who can go out into the world and make it better,” said Peyton. “This was the entire purpose of the creation of the 19th century system of public education – to educate future citizens to participate in our democracy.”