A headshot photo of Ke Peng.

Ke Peng

Ke Peng, a Chinese professor at Western Kentucky University (WKU), is the 2022 recipient of the Kentucky World Language Association (KWLA) Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. She received the award on Sept. 24 at the KWLA Fall Conference.

Peng is the director of the Chinese Flagship Program and associate professor of Chinese at WKU. She received her doctorate in Chinese linguistics with a focus on second language acquisition and teaching from the University of Arizona. She earned her master’s degree in foreign language education at Indiana University.

She teaches modern Chinese language classes at all levels and offers courses in second language acquisition and teaching methods of foreign languages to both undergraduate and graduate pre-service teachers. She also offers content courses to Flagship students on Chinese culture, history and classical Chinese at the advanced and superior level. Her research interests include second language acquisition at the syntax-semantics interface, literacy development and K-16 teacher training.

Peng is active in teacher training and serves as the team leader of the college group for Read-On K-16 STARTALK teacher program in 2012 through 2023. She also acts as the instructional leader for the 2022 Kentucky Association of Chinese Language Teachers STARTALK residential program. Her goal is to build sustainable programs to help students make massive transformational changes in life through holistic learning and intercultural experiences. Additionally, she has been elected to serve as the secretary of KWLA.

The other candidates for KWLA’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, who represented Kentucky chapters of professional language organizations, included:

  • Timothy Marsee, Latin teacher at Wilder Elementary School (Jefferson County), Outstanding Latin Teacher;
  • Ben Hawkins, French teacher at East Carter High School (Carter County), Outstanding French Teacher;
  • Katrin Bahr, German professor at Center College, Outstanding German Teacher;
  • Koji Tanno, Japanese professor at University of Kentucky (UK), Outstanding Japanese Teacher;
  • Chelo Martín Díaz, Spanish Teacher at Ryle High School (Boone County), Outstanding Spanish Teacher;
  • Manuel Nieto, Spanish teacher at Walden School, Outstanding KY-NNELL (K-8) Teacher;

Before receiving the top honor as the KWLA’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Peng received the Outstanding Chinese Teacher award from the Kentucky Association of Chinese Language Teachers.

In March, she will represent Kentucky World Languages teachers at the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, which is the regional conference, and where she will be a candidate for the SCOLT regional Teacher of the Year Award. Should she win the award at the regional level, she would then advance to the national level where she would compete for the National World Languages Teacher of the Year Award, given by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

A headshot photo of Collin Smith.

Collin Smith

KWLA also awarded its Outstanding Rising Star Teacher Award to Collin Smith, a German teacher at Greenwood High School (Warren County). The award recognizes a teacher with no more than five years of experience (both in the US and/or internationally) who has already made an amazing impact on their students by exhibiting best practices to an uncommonly high degree.

Smith completed her bachelors degree in German language and literature at Georgetown College in 2014. Right after, she moved to Hamburg, Germany, for a few years to teach English through a Fulbright grant. In 2019, she received her master’s degree in German studies from UK, while teaching German courses at both UK and Georgetown College.

After completing her teacher certification through WKU, Smith began teaching at Greenwood High School in 2020. While it is her third year working as a high school teacher, Smith is extremely excited to serve her students while teaching German language. She loves traveling and learning about new cultures, she is passionate and enthusiastic about world language education and enjoys finding new ways to learn with her students.

Four others also received awards from the KWLA:

  • Jeremy Renner, administrator at Jefferson County Public Schools (former principal of Goldsmith Elementary School, Dual Language Immersion program), Outstanding Administrator.
  • Karina Barillas, Executive Director for La Casita Center (Louisville, Kentucky), Amici Linguarum (Friends of Languages) in education category.
  • Isabel Gereda Taylor, founder and multicultural affairs coordinator of Global Lex (Lexington, Kentucky), Amici Linguarum (Friends of Languages) in non-education category.
  • Pam Caudill, German professor at Thomas More University, Lifetime Achievement.

Since 1974, the Kentucky World Language Association has endeavored to support, celebrate and highlight excellence in teaching world languages in Kentucky schools.

Alfonso De Torres Núñez is a Spanish teacher at Bloom Elementary School (Jefferson County) and serves as the Awards committee chairperson for the Kentucky World Language Association.