Picture of a man wearing a suit, sitting at a table and talking.

At the Dec. 1 Kentucky Board of Education meeting, 2021 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Donnie Piercey gives an overview of his past year in the role. Piercey created an online platform, Teachers Passing Notes, to share creative lessons from teachers across the state.
Photo by Marvin Young, Dec. 1, 2021

As his year as 2021 Kentucky Teacher of the Year (KTOY) comes to a close, Donnie Piercey had the opportunity to reflect on his past year before passing the torch to the 2022 KTOY winner Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr.

Piercey, who is finishing up his 6-month sabbatical with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), attended the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) meeting on Dec. 1 and to give a Year in Review presentation.

“It’s been the honor of my professional life to represent not only the state of Kentucky, but every educator, teacher, parent and student across the state for the last year and a half,” said Piercey, a 5th-grade teacher at Stonewall Elementary School (Fayette County).

Piercey’s main passion project during his sabbatical with KDE’s Division of Communications was Teachers Passing Notes, an online platform he created to amplify the voices of educators and increase teacher collaboration.

Throughout the summer and fall, Piercey traveled to elementary, middle and high schools across the state to record video interviews with teachers about creative ideas they have used in their classrooms. While the pandemic limited being able to go into schools, he still managed to create 27 videos that shine a light on the Commonwealth’s educators. He also has three interviews that will be released in the future.

“Donnie has been an amazing ambassador for Kentucky’s public schools and students,” said Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “He has shone a light throughout his ambassadorship about the great things going on in our classrooms right now. I know it was hard for him to step away from his classroom for six months, but we’re so glad to get the chance to work closely with him. We look forward to keeping our working relationship strong.”

During his year as Kentucky’s Teacher of the Year, Piercey has been invited to many events and conferences where he was able to share his expertise with not just current educators, but future educators as well. He was the keynote speaker for this year’s Educators Rising conference, where he spoke to high school students about his experience and why they should continue to go into the education profession.

In November, Piercey was invited to travel to Iceland, where he attended the Iceland Ministry of Education’s annual conference as a keynote speaker.

Piercey also recognized that his position came with great responsibility, so he took the opportunity to encourage others to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and as Teacher of the Year, I needed to make sure that I not only was advocating for teachers, but making sure I was encouraging everyone to get vaccinated,” said Piercey.

Over the past year, Piercey has:

  • Participated in 98 workshops, sessions or keynotes;
  • Shared in-person or virtually in five states outside of Kentucky;
  • Presented in four countries, including the United State, Guatemala, Colombia and Iceland;
  • Created 27 Teachers Passing Notes videos;
  • Participated in five television interviews;
  • Received 200,000 views on his YouTube channel; and
  • Created 20 podcast episodes.

Piercey finished his presentation to the board by thanking his wife, Raven.

“I would not have had the opportunities that I’ve had this year without her support,” said Piercey.

2022 Teacher of the Year Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. of Montgomery County will begin his sabbatical with KDE in January.