The Imperfect Classroom

Kevin Dailey

Kevin Dailey, 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year

In an effort to better capture and celebrate the wealth of knowledge and expertise of teachers across the state, I set out to interview and observe educators from every corner of Kentucky.

The process was simple: find teachers who create classrooms where kids want to be, get to know them and bear witness to what makes them special, then celebrate that experience. It is my theory that every single school in Kentucky has teachers that I can learn from and are worth celebrating. None of these teachers are perfect, but through their imperfections, they all have something special they contribute to their students and their community.

I hope by sharing my experience with these teachers, our communities can have a window into our classrooms and other teachers can begin to embrace their own Imperfect Classrooms.

As I began my journey to find inspiring and effective classrooms across the Commonwealth, I knew I wouldn’t have to go far to get started. I truly believe that every school in Kentucky has teachers worth celebrating and what better place to start than with a teacher who has inspired me in my own school district.

Every successful team needs that one person who they can always count on; the person that, no matter how bumpy the road may get, they will see it through; the person who will keep calm through chaos. At Ballyshannon Middle School in Boone County, that person is Maegan Tepe.

Maegan began her teaching career in Bullitt County, but in 2021 relocated to Northern Kentucky and chose Ballyshannon as her landing place. For those that don’t remember, 2021 was a time when almost every facet of education was uncertain and tumultuous, but it couldn’t have been a more perfect fit as Ballyshannon was undergoing similar changes to every school in America. In her time at Ballyshannon, she has become a beacon of consistency and positivity for her students and her colleagues.

Maegan Tate

Maegan Tepe, Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County)

Maegan teaches 8th grade math and Algebra I, but like most teachers, she does so much more for her school community. On top of her classroom duties, she serves as the National Junior Honor Society sponsor and the Head of House for Isibindi, one of the eight building-wide teams designed to promote a sense of belonging for all students, teachers and staff members.

When you ask her students, they’ll tell you “she don’t play” when it comes to math, and it’s for good reason: as she puts it, by 8th grade, many students have a fixed mindset when it comes to math: they either get it or they don’t. So she makes it her mission to transform that mindset through structure, scaffolding and consistency.

In talking to her students and colleagues, and from my own personal experience working alongside her, it is clear to me that’s where her magic lies: in her ability to bring the highest-quality instruction to every single student, every single day. It’s that consistency that earns her so much respect from students and teachers alike.

Consistency is one of the many qualities necessary for a successful teacher, and like any other trait, it requires balance. Too much and the class feels stale and rigid, too little and it feels unstructured. This is one of the questions that new and veteran teachers face: how do we maintain consistency and high expectations while providing the flexibility necessary to teach so many students with so many needs? One look at Maegan’s class and it becomes clear that she stands out as an exemplar in this capacity and so many others.

As I spoke with Maegan for this interview, she said that her community at Ballyshannon is special because there you will find a building full of people that genuinely care about the whole child; who invest in the lives of their students in ways that go beyond academics alone; and an administration that supports the creative efforts of their teachers. But as one of her colleagues, I can tell you that Maegan is at the top of that list.

In 2022, Maegan was recognized by the Kentucky Department of Education as a Teacher Achievement Award winner, setting her at the top of the class of teachers in Kentucky. According to her co-teacher Molly O’Connor, “Maegan’s classroom is special because every single student knows that when they enter her room, they are going to get the support they need to be successful, regardless of their needs or proficiency.”

One thing is clear when you talk to the people of Ballyshannon Middle School: with Mrs. Tepe, they know what they are going to get each and every day, and that is something they can all count on.

This series is designed to provide a glimpse into classrooms across Kentucky, but moreover, to celebrate our public school teachers’ contributions to their students and their communities. If you know of a teacher who creates an amazing classroom environment and brings excitement, optimism, and excellence to education in Kentucky, email Kevin Dailey at

Kevin Dailey is a teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County) and is currently serving as the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.