Leann Lewis, a 9th-grade English teacher at Simon Kenton High School (Kenton County), has been awarded the 2021 Kentucky Education Association (KEA) Teacher of the Year Award.

Picture of a smiling woman.

Leann Lewis

“Leann is one of the most pivotal, crucial professionals – a freshman English teacher who guides students through a meaningful transition between middle/high school. She has the talent, skill and capacity to work with all students regardless of ability or diversity … and her innovative, creative work in Read 180 is a model for schools in our district and state,” said Laura Schneider, a fellow teacher at Simon Kenton and president emeritus of the Kenton County Education Association. “Her curriculum continually changes as she envisions the needs of students evolving and changing. This is the hallmark of a great teacher and Leann is one of the best.”

Lewis was inspired by her experiences with her teachers as well as at home. Her mother Sally was a long-time preschool teacher at church and a kindergarten instructional assistant.

“Teaching has always been my first career choice. I love being a teacher because I love learning and sharing what I have learned,” she said.

“I had teachers that gave up their time before, during, and after school and did all they could to engage students in learning,” said Lewis. “Since becoming an educator, I use that same philosophy to help students.”

Lewis works with a diverse population of students with a variety of values and needs. Some students read grades below their reading level and struggle with food insecurity and emotional issues that make learning more difficult. Through her teaching, Lewis has helped foster a community of learners, developed a reading curriculum that presents her students an opportunity to explore social justice issues, improved a program to enhance freshman success and college readiness, and provided students with the social and emotional skills to succeed.

The award is presented to a KEA educator who exhibits excellence in five critical areas of teaching – professional practice, advocacy for the profession, attention to diversity, community engagement and leadership in professional development.

“Leann Lewis embodies what a KEA educator in Kentucky strives to be,” said Eddie Campbell, president of the 40,000-plus education association. “She is dedicated and involved with her students, school, community and profession. She works to make each of them better. She is so deserving of this teacher of the year award.”

In addition to receiving this year’s KEA award as teacher of the year, Lewis was awarded the 2021 Kenton county school’s “Be Like Mr. Rogers” Award, named a top twenty educator in Cincinnati Magazine in 2019, and received the Northern Kentucky Education Association’s 2016 Teacher of the Year award.

Lewis graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2008 with a master’s degree in education and graduated from Morehead State University in 2001 with a bachelor of arts degree in the area of concentration in English Education with a Teacher Certificate.

Lewis describes herself as an enthusiastic leader at her school. “Throughout my career, I have taken on many leadership roles in the classroom, including team leader and manager of freshman events like orientation and end of year rewards. If it is for my students, there is nothing I will not do,” she said.

As for the teaching profession, Lewis serves on her school’s site-based decision-making council, leads multiple professional development sessions, and serves as the current local education association president.  

During the pandemic year especially, Lewis believes her role as an educator is to be part of the community as well as her school, and to never stop learning.

“As an educator, it is not only my job to participate in the community but to model that for my students; it helps them to see educators as real people and provide a chance to give back to the community,” said Lewis.

“This year has proven that as an education community we can work together to learn skills and strategies to support new learning formats, creative ways to engage students in person or virtually. Just because we fill the role of the teacher and manager of the classroom does not mean that we are finished learning. I think that has influenced our students in a positive way as well; to see that learning is not just for school hours but for a lifetime.