By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – “Children still need teachers who care about them and believe in them … create environments where they feel safe and happy. They still need teachers who are patient and work hard to help them learn and grow. It’s as simple as that, not always easy, but always worth the effort. Always.” – the late Suzanne Dennis, who was 64 at her death.
Laura Beth Hayes, the daughter of the late Suzanne Dennis, read this writing from her mother about teachers at Campbellsville University’s 33rd annual Excellence in Teaching Award Program Ceremony May 11 in Ransdell Chapel.
Hayes, who has taught 16 years and is a former Excellence in Teaching Award recipient, spoke before 197 teachers who were honored from 68 school districts in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
A total of 3,946 teachers have been honored since the program began in 1987.
Hayes, a teacher at Morningside Elementary School in the Elizabethtown Independent School District, has also taught in the Hardin County School District. She was salutatorian of her 2003 Campbellsville University class, and she and her husband, Jason, completed their Master of Arts degrees from Campbellsville University in 2006.
She was the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award early in her career and was the 2016 recipient of the WHAS ExCEL Award for Elizabethtown Independent Schools. She was recently named “Wednesday’s Woman” by The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, Ky., for her work at school and in the community.
In her address, Hayes quoted her mother, who had taught for 37 years and was a graduate of Campbellsville College. She said her mother dedicated her life to teaching but she had become to struggle with feelings of being “old” as her 37th year quickly passed.
She was distraught with the decision to retire, to the point where she was physically ill, and, in her words, felt like her life was ending.
“All she ever wanted to be was a teacher,” Hayes said. “She worked tirelessly for more than three decades and the thought of living life without her beloved students was almost too much for her to accept. These struggles consumed her thoughts.
“She was the kind of teacher who preferred to stay under the radar and would much rather accumulate drawings from her students than accolades or awards.”
Hayes said her mother was not going to sign her letter of intent to teach for another year, but she actually changed her mind and decided not to retire, and she seemed to be feeling better.
On the morning of March 13, 2017, Dennis was driving to school and she crashed into a tree going 55 MPH due to some type of cardiac event. She died instantly – visible to students and families as they drove to school.
Dennis was honored in many ways after her death. Over 1,000 people attended her visitation and more than 500 people were at her funeral.
Awards were given in her honor, her school library was named after her, scholarships funds were created, trees planted, essays written and coverage from news outlets and social media exploded, her daughter said.
“It was extremely difficult to even comprehend the impact that she had made on others,” Hayes said. “It seemed unfathomable that, just a few weeks prior, she questioned her worth and value as a teacher. Oh, how I longed for her to see the expanse of love and admiration that was revealed.
“What a mighty legacy she has left behind. And, in spite of her absence on this earth, she is still teaching others.”
Hayes challenged the teachers at the ceremony to “find joy in the small moments. Embrace the mundane and the daily challenges that taunt us with the false notion that what we do isn’t important enough or doesn’t matter.
“Find confidence in knowing that wiping noses, sharpening pencils, grading stacks of tests and engaging in the antics of teenagers is part of the work – and a meaningful part of the work.”
She urged the teachers to “love your students – and your colleagues – in the simplest yet most sincere ways. For these are the moments that will define our careers. These are the memories our students will recall when they see us in the grocery store or look at their old yearbooks.
“These are the things people will speak about as they read your obituary or stand at your funeral.”
Hayes congratulated the teachers and said, “Thank you for already being the type of educators that will be remembered — and cherished — for years to come. Thank you for remaining faithful to a profession that does not always feel rewarding and can drain your time and energy.
“Thank you for the big love you show in the smallest of ways every single time you start the day. Your honor today is a privilege and a moment I hope you will always treasure.
“But beyond any accolades of today, I hope your experience has been a wonderful reminder that school is not something to package or define. We cannot step back on the mount and risk losing sight of perspective — or our students. Let’s open our eyes to the ‘so much more’ of education. My heart, and the hearts of your students, will continue to grow for years to come — because of you.”
Dr. Shane Garrison, vice president for enrollment services, gave the benediction for the ceremony and announced, as of July 1, Campbellsville University will be lowering the current graduate education tuition of $399 per credit hour by $100 to $299 per credit hour. This will make Campbellsville University have the lowest graduate tuition of any college or university in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Lisa Allen, dean of the School of Education, welcomed the teachers to the ceremony and gave out the awards to the teachers.
Hedgepath, a former public-school teacher who is a member of the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, said the Excellence in Teaching (EIT) Ceremony is one of her favorite events Campbellsville University does, and, “We appreciate you so much.”
Allen, a former English teacher, said her mentors in teaching weren’t afraid and were risk takers and motivators. “I know you are leaders of teachers and are excellent in teaching. Thank you for the privilege of honoring you.”
Dr. John Chowning, who serves as executive assistant to the president of Campbellsville University (Dr. Michael V. Carter) for government, community and constituent relations, talked about the history of the EIT program and said Campbellsville University, under the leadership of former president W.R. Davenport, stepped forward and joined with others in that period in showing support for public education and teachers by launching EIT in the Fifth Congressional District where Forward in the Fifth operated and then later expanded statewide.
“This is a small way in which we can honor you who are very dedicated school teachers,” Chowning said. “This is your day. We celebrate you. Thank you for all you are doing,” he said.
Chowning announced the names of the teachers receiving awards.
Katherine Bonds, soloist, sang “Getting to Know You” from “The King and I” and “Legacy.” She was accompanied by her husband, Corey Bonds, assistant director of bands at Campbellsville University and instructor in music.
The Excellence in Teaching Awards program is in partnership with Lexington’s CBS-affiliate, WKYT-TV.
The Excellence in Teaching Award recipients include the following with their superintendent listed first:
Adair County School System, Superintendent Dr. Pamela Stephens – Courtney Collins, Adair County Primary Center; Lachana Scholl, Adair County Middle School; and Chad Parnell, Adair County High School.
Anderson County School System, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell – Krista Sawyer, Saffell Street Elementary School; Nick Cann, Anderson County Middle School; and Sharon Sutherland, Anderson County High School;
Bardstown City Schools, Superintendent Dr. Ryan Clark – Angel Filiatreau, Bardstown Early Childhood Center; Eric Hardin, Bardstown Middle School; and Richae Logan, Bardstown High School;
Barren County School System, Superintendent Bo Matthews – Shanna Depp, Temple Hill Elementary School; Heather Meredith, Barren County Middle School; and Michelle Crabtree, Barren County High School;
Bell County School System, Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam – Shanna Philpot, Lone Jack School Center; Wayne Gambrel, Right Fork School Center; and Brandon Salas, Bell County High School;
Boyd County School System, Superintendent William Boblett Jr. – Letitia Rudie, Summit Elementary and Catlettsburg Elementary Schools; Courtney McClelland, Boyd County Middle School; and Shelly Walter, Boyd County High School;
Breckinridge County School System, Superintendent Dr. Nick Carter – Kirby Sebastian, Hardinsburg Elementary School; Alex Lovell, Breckinridge County Middle School; and Justin Arnold, Breckinridge County High School;
Bullitt County School System, Superintendent Jesse Bacon – Alicia Doyle, Old Mill Elementary School; Christina Stidom, Eastside Middle School; and Monica Clark, North Bullitt High School;
Burgin Independent School, Superintendent Will Begley – LesLye Turner, Burgin Independent School, Elementary; Taylor Bottoms, Burgin Independent School, Middle; and Jennifer Barlow, Burgin Independent School, High;
Butler County School System, Superintendent Scott Howard – Ben Wilson, North Butler Elementary School; Anita Cardwell, Butler County Middle School; and Leslie Glass, Butler County High School;
Campbellsville Independent School System, Superintendent Kirby Smith – Kaye Agathen, Campbellsville Elementary School; Katie Wilkerson, Campbellsville Middle School, Campbellsville College 1984 graduate; and Tyler Hardy, Campbellsville High School, Campbellsville University 2012 and 2016 graduate;
Carter County School System, Superintendent Dr. Ronnie Dotson – Rachel Harper, Prichard Elementary School; Mary Lou Beck, East Carter Middle School; and Jeffrey Huffman, West Carter High School;
Casey County School System, Superintendent Marion Sowders – JoAnn Taylor, Walnut Hill Elementary School; Tara Luster, Casey County Middle School; and Susan Leathers, Casey County High School;
Caverna Independent School System, Superintendent Cornelius Faulkner – Kenetha Scott, Caverna Elementary School; Amanda Nutt, Caverna Middle School; and Jeff Williams, Caverna High School;
Cumberland County School System, Superintendent Dr. Kirk Biggerstaff – Erika Murphy, Cumberland County Elementary School; Tiffany Riddle, Cumberland County Middle School; and Kim Capps, Cumberland County High School;
Danville Christian Academy, Headmaster James Ward II – Shanna Sheperson, Danville Christian Academy, Elementary; Kayla Johnson, Danville Christian Academy, Middle; and Jill Robertson, Danville Christian Academy, High;
Daviess County School System, Superintendent J. Matthew Robbins – Marcia Tomes, Southern Oaks Elementary School; Jennifer McFadden, Daviess County Middle School; and Carrie Whitmer, Daviess County High School;
East Bernstadt Independent School System, Superintendent Vicki Jones – Brandi Stokes, East Bernstadt Independent School, Elementary; and Sandra Roberts, East Bernstadt Independent School, Middle;
Edmonson County School System, Superintendent Patrick Waddell – Kendra Cline, South Edmonson Elementary School; Allison Bolton, Edmonson County Middle School; and Jennifer Dooley, Edmonson County High School;
Elizabethtown Independent School System, Superintendent Jon Ballard – Sharon Billings, Morningside Elementary School; and Cain Alvey, Talton K. Stone Middle School;
Estill County School System, Superintendent Jeffery Saylor – Traci Baber, Estill Springs Elementary School; and Brandi Smith, Estill County Middle School;
Fairview Independent School System, Superintendent Jackie Risden-Smith – Kim Stambaugh, Fairview Elementary School; Holli McClelland, Fairview High School; and Derek Cooksey, Fairview High School;
Frankfort Independent School System, Superintendent Dr. Houston Barber – Stephanie Starkey, Second Street School; Keyana Brown, Second Street School; and Alan Perry, Frankfort High School;
Gallatin County School System, Superintendent Larry Hammond – Debbie DeLauche, Gallatin County Upper Elementary School; Emily Lowe, Gallatin County Middle School; and Michelle Schultz, Gallatin County High School;
Garrard County School System, Superintendent Corey Keith – Tara Lewis, Paint Lick Elementary School; Dr. Audrey Nichols, Garrard Middle School; and Tina Brogli, Garrard County High School;
Graves County School System, Superintendent Kim Dublin – Sarah Thompson, Symsonia Elementary School; Erica Hays, Graves County Middle School; and Col. Jason Caldwell, Graves County High School;
Green County School System, Superintendent William Hodges – Michelle Keltner, Green County Primary School; Amanda Snyder, Green County Middle School; and Cortney Mooney, Green County High School, Campbellsville University 1997 and 2000 graduate;
Greenup County School System, Superintendent Sherry Horsley – Samantha Unger, Argillite Elementary School; Melissa Travis, Wurtland Middle School; and James Collier, Greenup County High School;
Harlan County School System, Superintendent Brent Roark – Taylor Lankford, James A. Cawood Elementary School; Jeff Roberts, Wallins Elementary School; and Chris Anama-Green, Harlan County High School;
Harlan Independent School System, Superintendent Charles Morton – Leslie Goss, Harlan Elementary School; Cory Estep, Harlan Middle School; and Cathy Thomas, Harlan High School;
Harrison County School System, Superintendent Andy Dotson – Angela Mattox, Eastside Elementary School; Kelly Whalen, Harrison County Middle School; and Rachel Slusher, Harrison County High School;
Hart County School System, Superintendent Nathan Smith – Chelsi Meredith, LeGrande Elementary School; Joey Sexton, Memorial Elementary School; and Whitney Laurie, Hart County High School;
Hazard Independent School System, Superintendent Sandra Johnson – Traci Lindon, Roy G. Eversole Elementary School;
Henry County School Systems, Superintendent Dr. Terry Price – Rebecca Marrillia, New Castle Elementary School; Courtney Guthrie, Henry County Middle School; and Adam Lugsch-Tehle, Henry County High School;
Johnson County School System, Superintendent Thom Cochran – Jeanne Reed, Flat Gap Elementary School; Pamela Burton, Johnson County Middle School; and Sharon Stamper, Johnson Central High School;
Kenton County School System, Superintendent Dr. Henry Webb – Melody Childers, Piner Elementary School; and Lori Dennler, Dixie Heights High School;
Kentucky Christian Academy, Administrator Alicia Riggs – Tammy Perkins, Kentucky Christian Academy, Preschool, Campbellsville University 2010 graduate; and Carolyn Butler, Kentucky Christian Academy, Middle;
Knox County School System, Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles – Julie Shepherd, Lynn Camp Elementary School; Derrick Phipps, Knox County Middle School; and Rodney Swafford, Knox Central High School;
LaRue County School System, Superintendent David Raleigh – Karlotta Cecil, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School; Timothy Gross, LaRue County Middle School; and Misty Bivens, LaRue County High School;
Laurel County School System, Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett – Cindy Storm, Johnson Elementary School; Amy Gaines, South Laurel Middle School; and Jamie Davis, North Laurel High School;
Logan County School System, Superintendent Paul Mullins – Jan Estes, Chandler’s Elementary School; Jennifer Jenkins, Adairville Middle School; and Bryan Estes, Logan County High School;
Madison County School System, Superintendent David Gilliam – Dr. Ashley Cornelison, White Hall Elementary School; Jeffrey McClain, Madison Middle School; and William Dooley, Madison Southern High School;
Marion County School System, Superintendent Taylora Schlosser – Annette Jones, West Marion Elementary School; Kimberly Wright, Marion County Middle School, Campbellsville University 2004 graduate; and Ginger Allen, Marion County High School;
Marshall County School System, Superintendent Trent Lovett – Jennifer McClard, Sharpe Elementary School; and Raylene Gagel, Marshall County High School;
McCreary County School System, Superintendent Ronald “Sonny” Fentress – Gregory Duncan, Pine Knot Elementary School; Joy Waters, McCreary County Middle School; and Tami Starrett, McCreary Central High School;
Meade County School System, Superintendent Dr. John Millay – Allison Doutaz, Brandenburg Primary School; Sarah Nevitt, Stuart Pepper Middle School; and Kristin Hibbard, Meade County High School;
Menifee County School System, State Manager Timothy Spencer – LaJohnda Williams, Menifee Elementary School; Megan Ison, Menifee Elementary School; and Jana Lindon, Menifee County High School;
Mercer County School System, Superintendent Dennis Davis – Julia Hammons, Mercer County Intermediate School; Barry Moser, King Middle School; and Debra Teets, Mercer County High School;
Metcalfe County School System, Superintendent Dr. Benny Lile – Jay White, Metcalfe County Elementary School; Whitney Curd, Metcalfe County Middle School; and Shana Palumbo, Metcalfe County High School, Campbellsville University 2014 graduate;
Monroe County School System, Superintendent Amy Thompson – Shelly Buck, Gamaliel Elementary School; Billie Cleary, Monroe County Middle School; and Andrea Curtis, Monroe County High School;
Montgomery County School System, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Thompson – Tammy Rutherford, Mount Sterling Elementary School; Morgan Miller, McNabb Middle School; and Melissa Arnett, Montgomery County High School;
Ohio County School System, Superintendent Seth Southard – Jackie Kaufman, Beaver Dam Elementary School; Crystal Geary, Ohio County Middle School; and Scott Ford, Ohio County High School;
Owen County School System, Superintendent Dr. Robert Stafford – Gina Ayres, Owen County Elementary School; Casey Duvall, Maurice Bowling Middle School; and Laura Dorton, Owen County High School;
Owensboro Public School System, Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Brake – Faith Harralson, Estes Elementary School; Kendel Hayden, Owensboro Middle School North; and Beth Ewing, Owensboro High School;
Pulaski County School System, Superintendent Patrick Richardson – Mandy Nicholas, Oak Hill Elementary School; Shasta Jones, Southern Middle School; and Stephen Dykes, Pulaski County High School;
Rockcastle County School System, Superintendent David Pensol – Starla Benge, Brodhead Elementary School; Sabrina Schoolcraft, Rockcastle County Middle School, Campbellsville University 2016 graduate; and Debbie Coleman, Rockcastle County High School;
Rowan County School System, Superintendent John Maxey – Nikki Scott, Tilden Hogge Elementary School; Pamela Rowland, Rowan County Middle School; and Kim Elam, Rowan County Senior High School;
Russell County School System, Superintendent Michael Ford – Rebecca Skaggs, Salem Elementary School; Travis Miller, Russell County Middle School; and Greg Allen, Russell County High School;
Russellville Independent Schools, Superintendent Bart Flener – Kaleigh Thomas, Russellville Preschool Academy; Kaitlin Maiden, Stevenson Elementary School; Conrad Reding, Russellville Junior Senior High School; and Brian Brown, Russellville Junior Senior High School;
Scott County School System, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub – Ashlee McCullough, Western Elementary School; Erin Ball, Georgetown Middle School; and Erin McIver, Elkhorn Crossing School;
Simpson County School System, Superintendent Dr. James Flynn – Patricia Coker, Simpson Elementary School; Justin Mitchell, Franklin-Simpson Middle School; and Jeremy Loveall, Franklin-Simpson High School;
Somerset Independent School System, Superintendent Kyle Lively – Sandy Moore, Hopkins Elementary School; Erin Mullins, Meece Middle School; and Gwynne Baker, Somerset High School;
Spencer County School System, Superintendent Charles Adams – Vicky Thomas, Spencer County Elementary School; Michelle Gross, Spencer County Middle School; and Kelly Heichelbech, Spencer County High School;
Taylor County School System, Superintendent Charles Higdon Jr. – Jayne Litton, Taylor County Intermediate School, Campbellsville University 2009 and 2014 graduate; Chastity Spalding, Taylor County Middle School, Campbellsville University 1997 and 2001 graduate; and Lindsay Wayne, Taylor County High School;
Union County School System, Superintendent Patricia Sheffer – Amy Paris, Uniontown Elementary School; John Paris, Union County Middle School; and Dana Davis, Union County High School;
Warren County School System, Superintendent Rob Clayton – Autumn Dennison, Oakland Elementary School; Jennifer Moore, Warren East Middle School; and Kelly Reynolds, South Warren High School;
Washington County School System, Superintendent Dr. J. Robin Cochran – Anna Abell, Washington County Elementary School; Erica Baker, North Washington Elementary School; and David Goodlett, Washington County High School;
Wayne County School System, Superintendent Wayne Roberts – Angela Phillips, Monticello Elementary School; Annette Guinn, Wayne County Middle School; and Roger Keith, Wayne County High School.
The 2019 Excellence in Teaching Committee included: Dr. Lisa Allen, dean of the Campbellsville University School of Education; Elizabeth Franklin, Lisa Kirtley, Natasha Nall, Dominic Sanfilippo, early childhood programs secretary, and Alice Steele, secretary for special education.
Campbellsville University is a widely-acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 12,000 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has off-campus centers in Kentucky cities Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville and Liberty with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.