Picture of a man standing in front of his house holding a large presentation check and a glass award,.

Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr., an English and French teacher from Montgomery County, was surprised Sept. 9 after being named the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year during a virtual ceremony.
Photo by Toni Konz Tatman, Sept. 9, 2021

Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr., an English and French teacher at Montgomery County High School, is the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

“The best thing about teaching is you get lost in the process. It’s all about what the students do,” said Carver during the virtual ceremony. “Thank you to all of my students who helped me get here.”

He said the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year award serves as a testament to all the teachers who supported him throughout his education journey. Carver also was named the Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass thanked Carver, the other winners who were named the Elementary and Middle School Teacher of the Year, and all of the Commonwealth’s teachers for devoting their lives to educating students.

“Our most important assets in education are the teachers who bring their classrooms alive with learning,” he said. “No matter what subject area or grade level they teach, these teachers challenge, lead and set good examples for the children in their care.”

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and Valvoline, co-sponsors of the award, announced Carver’s selection in a virtual ceremony on Sept. 9 in Lexington. This was the second Kentucky Teacher of the Year announcement to be held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Semifinalists for the award joined the live broadcast online.

Carver is in his 10th year of teaching at Montgomery County High School. As a child growing up in Floyd County, he recalls having limited access to the supplies he needed for school. Whether it was paper, pencils or even a pair of shoes, he knew he could rely on his teachers to help him get by.

Now, as the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Carver hopes to instill that same level of humanity in his classroom every day.

Also announced during the virtual ceremony were the 2022 Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year and Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

The Middle School Teacher of the Year is Hallie Booth, an 8th-grade math teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County). Booth focuses on exploration in her classroom and giving students real-world experiences.

“I appreciate the honor,” said Booth. “It’s a combination of everyone that has been a part of my classrooms and been a part of my administration and teaching colleagues. I’m so proud to represent the other middle school teachers.”

The Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Ashley Ritchie, a 2nd-grade teacher at Beechwood Elementary School (Beechwood Independent).

To engage her students in the learning process, Ritchie uses room transformations, which involves transforming her classroom into something new and different that centers on the standards students are learning.

“I am so honored to be here and to represent elementary teachers in Kentucky, so thank you so much for this chance,” Ritchie said.

The 2022 Teacher of the Year will receive a $10,000 cash award, while the Middle and Elementary School Teachers of the Year each will get $3,000. The remaining 21 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award recipients each get $500.

Carver also will receive the opportunity to serve a semester-long sabbatical with KDE and will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

All three of the Teacher of the Year recipients will receive a glass statuette from Valvoline.

The ceremony concluded with remarks from Gov. Beshear, who praised all the extra work teachers have done due to COVID-19.

Beshear congratulated Carver, calling him “the man of many names,” and thanked him for his inspiring work, along with Booth and Ritchie.

“We are here celebrating those exceptional educators, but I want to make sure every teacher across the Commonwealth knows how much you are valued,” said Beshear.

“Few have been hit harder or been more directly impacted more than you, our educators. We entrust you with our most precious gifts – our children. As the dad of two middle school children, I can’t thank you enough for how much you invest in those who we love more than anybody else in the world.”

Beshear said that the state owes educators a “deep debt of gratitude” for their ability to be innovative and flexible during the pandemic.

The Selection Process
Four elementary, three middle school and three high school teachers were announced Aug. 2 as semifinalists for Teacher of the Year out of more than 500 nominations received by KDE.

The semifinalists were chosen by a panel of veteran educators based on applications that included nominees’ teaching philosophies, experience and community involvement, along with letters of recommendation.

Each semifinalist had an interview and a classroom lesson review. The one with the highest cumulative score from the entire process was chosen as Teacher of the Year.

This is the 21st year Valvoline, which is headquartered in Lexington, has partnered with KDE to honor Kentucky educators.

“Teachers, we appreciate your efforts. Each of you should feel pride in knowing that you not only excel in your profession in your district, but also rank among Kentucky’s best educators,” said Valvoline CEO Sam Mitchell. “We applaud you and we recognize the many sacrifices you and your family members have made throughout your years as an educator.”