LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Annually, the London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce awards three outstanding teachers — one from elementary, middle, and high school levels — as “Teachers of the Year.”
Students, parents, fellow teachers and the community at large are allowed to vote via nomination form. Once forms are returned, a Chamber of Commerce selection committee reviews the nominations, selects the top 20 nominees, and talks with school principals for the final selection process. The award is presented to new nominees each year at the organization’s annual banquet.
The Teacher of the Year award is sponsored by Cumberland Healthcare Systems and each teacher is presented with a plaque and a $1,000 cash prize for their personal use.
This year’s winners were recognized at the Chamber banquet on March 5. They were: Connie Shepherd from Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary School; Joey McKnight from North Laurel Middle School; and Chasity “Bo” White from South Laurel High School.
Shepherd teaches empathy, respect as well as reading and writing
By Carrie Dillard
Connie Shepherd, a teacher at Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary School, said, sometimes, teaching students how to act in social situations is just as important as classroom instruction, especially in this age group.
“In the real world, you have to be able to communicate,” she said. “I try to teach them to get along with their peers, to be fair to each other and kind to each other."
Shepherd teaches fifth-grade reading and writing. One of the most important lessons in the fifth grade, she said, is responsibility. As students prepare to switch classes full-time in the sixth grade, she believes it is necessary to teach students to be independent.
Shepherd said she has very little discipline problems in her classroom. She practices mutual respect – giving respect to students and getting it back in return.
“There are very few rules in my classroom. I say, ‘Within these walls, you are respected, safe, and you will learn.’ I never want a child in my classroom to be scared or afraid (to ask for help).
“I care about their education. If they do their best, that’s all I ask.”
Shepherd has spent the last six years of her 28-year teaching career at Wyan-Pine Grove. She previously taught at Pittsburg Elementary, Hazel Green and Cold Hill elementary schools.
Shepherd earned her degree in elementary education from Eastern Kentucky University.
She has served as past PTO president at Wyan-Pine and volunteers at many after-school functions including sock hops, car shows and basketball games.
“I feel that it’s part of my job,” she said. “Teaching is not just in the classroom. It’s being a role model, just like being a parent.”
She and her husband, Alan, have three children. Their daughter, Jessica Jackson, is a teacher at Johnson Elementary; their daughter, Heather Williams, is in the nursing program at Eastern Kentucky University; and their son, Jacob Hensley, is in pre-law at the University of Kentucky.
The couple has been married for more than 20 years.
She loves to spend time as a family 4-wheeling, camping and swimming at the lake.
"Our children are our pride and joy. We all get together for family dinner every Sunday."
When students see her in everyday clothes, working concessions or selling tickets at the door of a ballgame, Shepherd said they begin to see her as “a regular person.” This goes for parents just as well.
“It’s a good time to fellowship with parents," she said. "The most precious thing to a parent is their child. When you get involved (outside of the classroom), and parents see you involved, they know we love their children. It lets them know you have their child's best interest at heart.”
When Shepherd got the call that she had been chosen as Teacher of the Year, she was shocked.
“I was so proud. It's a wonderful honor.”
Shepherd said she has "some of the best kids" this year.
“The Lord blesses me every day.”