The Kentucky Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts recognizes outstanding educators of English and Language Arts during our annual conference.

Nominations for the 2021 awards will be accepted through Nov. 1, 2020:

The 2020 Award Winners Recognized at the Annual Conference:

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Robin Burr, Berea Community Schools.

Robin has taught twenty years in Kentucky and in five different states. Her passion is changing the direction of schools of poverty with an emphasis on at-risk girls.  Robin is currently working at Berea Community Schools and is a fifth-grade math teacher who knows literacy is as important in math as it is in Language Arts. Her future goals are to complete my Ph.D. in STEM education and begin a school for at-risk girls from Appalachia.

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jennifer Csolkovits, Walton-Verona Middle School

Having attended Morehead State University for an elementary education degree, Jennifer quickly began her career at Paris Independent. She furthered her education by completing a Masters of Arts in Teaching with an English component and have been teaching for almost 10 years now. After marrying her husband, Jennifer taught collaboratively and the advanced students at Campbell County Middle School before accepting the 8th-grade writing teacher position at Walton-Verona Independent Schools. Jennifer’s goal every day is to encourage every student to be the best version of themselves daily.

High School Teacher of the Year: Victoria Leibeck-Owsley, Adair County High School

Victoria Leibeck-Owsley is a High School English Teacher at Adair County High School in Columbia Kentucky. She is a graduate of Berea College and Western Kentucky University and teaches AP Language and Composition and English II while coaching Academic Team, sponsoring her school’s first chapter of the National English Honor Society, and serving as the Adair County Education Association Secretary. Victoria was also a quarterfinalist in the 2019 Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.

College Teacher of the Year: Dr. Sara Cooper, Murray State University

Sara Cooper is an Assistant Professor of English at Murray State University, where she teaches graduate courses in the Doctor of Arts in English Pedagogy program. Her teaching and research focus on disrupting binaries—between form and formula, convention and invention, scholarly and creative work—in secondary and postsecondary contexts toward increased rhetorical agency for student writers, especially those belonging to marginalized groups. She has mentored K-12 teachers around the country in multiple academic and community contexts. She is also the proud mama of the world’s most fabulous four-year-old.

Administrator of the Year: Zachary Ashley, Beechwood Independent

This is my 16th year in public education. I was an English teacher for 9 years and 2019-2020 is my 7th in administration.   I have been the principal at Beechwood Elementary for 5 years, and I believe we are working to do so much good for every student that walks through our doors, every day.  It is a great joy and honor to serve students and the community by preparing future generations to be successful in all that they do. I love Jesus, my wife Danielle, my six children and making a positive difference in as many people as possible.

Gretchen Niva Service Award: Jean Wolph, University of Louisville & Louisville Writing Project

Jean began teaching in 1971 at Fairdale High in Louisville, moving later to Oldham County Middle and then to the University of Louisville as an adjunct where she fell under the spell of Dr. Marjorie Kaiser and was eventually recruited to direct the Louisville Writing Project in 1998 and will soon mark her 22nd year in that position. Jean has served on various National Writing Project leadership teams, currently on the College, Career & Community Writing Program (C3WP), which has received two federal i3 grants (Investing in Innovation) to work across the country to improve the teaching and writing of argument.  She currently oversees a 3-year grant to work in 8 Kentucky districts to improve teacher capacity to teach argument writing. She has 3 sons, 5 grandchildren, and a love for gardening and cooking and, of course, writing.

Stephanie Kirk Classroom Grant: Amanda Klare, Beechwood Independent; Student-Led Podcasting

The 2019 Award Winners Recognized at the Annual Conference:

Administrator of the Year: Trent Lovett, Marshall County Public Schools

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Latonya Taylor-Rowe, Highland Elementary

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Kennita Ballard, Jefferson County Public Schools

High School Teacher of the Year: Scott Osborn, Lawrence County High School

College Teacher of the Year: Jonathan S. Cullick, PhD, Northern KY University

Gretchen Niva Service Award: Kristie Hofelich Ennis, Murray State University

The 2017 Award Winners Recognized at the Annual Conference:

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Shannon Pritchett

Shannon has taught kindergarten in Catholic schools for 27 years – the last 15 at St. Patrick Catholic School in Louisville.  Before moving to Louisville, Mrs. Pritchett taught in Nashville and Memphis, TN.  She says, “Teaching is my passion, my love, and my calling.  I truly love what I do! Teaching is filled with endless rewards.  My classroom is a positive, loving place where children feel comfortable to discover, explore, and learn about God, His great love, and awesome creation.”

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Kimberly Barrett

Kimberly is a life-long learner with a desire to reach kids. She feels so blessed to have a beautiful family and a fantastic job as a middle school teacher at South Marshall Middle School.

High School Teacher of the Year: Julie Ford

Julie has been teaching English (mostly sophomores and juniors) for almost sixteen years, and she is a wife and mother of 7 amazing kids. They all teach her so much about the human condition and about herself every day. Julie is also a student of life and of people’s stories. She loves to read, to write, and to listen, and her dream is that she encourages as many students as she can to love all of that as well. Julie longs to see a day when all people can communicate their opinions and dreams equally and with equal tolerance and passion, a day when all stories are heard and appreciated.

College Teacher of the Year: Dr. Jacqueline Hansen

Dr. Jacqueline Hansen spent most of her childhood hiking and fishing in the Rocky Mountains and exploring her local public library in the Denver area. After earning a BA in Elementary Education from Doane College in Nebraska, she taught elementary school for 23 years in Grand Island, Nebraska. While teaching full-time, Dr. Hansen went on to earn a MA Elementary Education, MA Education Administration and EdD Education Administration, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska. Then Dr. Hansen came to Murray State University so she could impact more children’s lives by teaching teachers to love teaching as much as she does. Dr. Hansen is a Professor of Education, Department Chair, and Director of Assessment at MSU.

Administrator of the Year: Jana Beth Francis

Jana Beth Slibeck Francis is the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for the Daviess County Public Schools.  As the district assessment coordinator for the last 15 years in Daviess County, she has been active in work around assessment and accountability.  Her passion lies in providing high quality professional learning to teachers believing that each and every teacher is first a learner.  A champion for teacher leadership, Mrs. Francis encourages teachers in Daviess County to learn together to improve the lives of their students.  She started her teaching career in DeKalb County, Georgia where she earned a masters in educational leadership through the Principal’s Academy at Georgia State.  Prior to that she received in a degree in mathematics from Wellesley College. Jana Beth and her husband Matt are proud graduates of Kentucky public high schools (Go Russell Red Devils!).  Matt and Jana Beth have one daughter, Eliza Beth, who is in third grade.

Gretchen Niva Service Award: Patti Slagle

Patti taught high school English in Jefferson County for 28 years spending the majority of those years at Iroquois and Seneca High Schools (where she served as EDC). During her tenure in the classroom, she made numerous NCTE presentations and served as Associate Chair of NCTE’s Secondary Section Steering Committee as well as sitting on NCTE’s Executive Committee. In 1993, Patti received the Mildred A. Daugherty Award from the Greater Louisville English Council after Co-Chairing the 1992 NCTE Convention in Louisville. Upon retirement from JCPS, she spent ten years working as a Language Arts Consultant for Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Littell in the educational publishing division. In 2012, Patti published Classroom Management: Voices of Experience co-authored with her Seneca colleague, Kay Twaryonas. She was a Fellow of LWP 1 in 1982. At the other end of her career in education, Patti returned to LWP eventually serving as an LWP Co-Director for XXXIII, XXXIV, and XXXV. On behalf of LWP, she took a “deep dive” into the CCSS Language Standards leading to her designation as their “Grammar Consultant.” Patti currently teaches Grammar Methods at the University of Louisville.

Stephanie Kirk Classroom Learning Grant: Amber Hall

After a few years’ hiatus, Amber has returned to AP Language & Composition coursework. Traditionally students built their toolboxes by reading, but more and more students are not engaging in such activities on their own. Thus, it is the teacher’s responsibility to offer engaging opportunities for students to approach difficult texts, which is why Amber loves love pop culture. She finds that it provides a platform for how she meets her (nonreader) students where they are. When Amber is not working with the AP curriculum, she can be found either chasing her two little ones or making a mess of her kitchen.

Intellectual Freedom Award: Emily Veatch

Emily teaches at Marion County High School in Lebanon, Kentucky. This is her fourth year of teaching. She currently teaches Pre-AP English 2, English 2, and English 4. Some of Emily’s favorite books include Pride and Prejudice, The Book Thief, Memoirs of a Geisha, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Awakening. Her favorite part about teaching English is the fact that students are able to explore the world around them from their seats in their desks. Watching her students become more globally aware through the reading of literature is very rewarding to her.

The 2016 Award Winners:

Vicki Conyer – Judith P. Whitson Administrator of the Year Award

Jennifer Gream, Kim Reed, Dee Dee Smith – Intellectual Freedom Award

Lora Wimsatt
Lora Wimsatt – Gretchen Niva Outstanding Service Award

Lora Wimsatt joined Daviess County Public Schools as public information officer in 2002. She has earned numerous awards from the Kentucky Schools Public Relations Association but says her greatest honor is the privilege of communicating the great work being done by teachers in classrooms across the DCPS district. Before joining DCPS, Lora worked for 27 years at the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer and continues to write a weekly column for the newspaper. She is also a regular contributor to Owensboro Living and Owensboro Parent magazines. She has four children, four grandchildren and a dog, and loves to travel. She has hiked El Camino de Santiago twice.

Melody Wallace – Stephanie Kirk Classroom Learning Award Winner

Melody Wallace is a sixth grade language arts teacher at Daviess County Middle School in Owensboro, Kentucky, as well as a monthly contributor to Owensboro Parent and Owensboro Living magazines.

Cassie Reding
Cassie Reding – 2016 Elementary Teacher of the Year Award

Cassie Reding teaches at Stevenson Elementary School in Russellville, KY where she serve as the chair of the literacy committee and teach 4th grade.  She is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Early and Middle Childhood ELA, a Hope Street Group Kentucky Teacher Fellow, and an active member of the Kentucky Education Association. She loves inspiring her students to believe in themselves academically and personally as she encourages them to develop a lifelong love for learning.

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Stella Baker – 2016 Middle School Teacher of the Year Award

Mrs. Stella Fugate Baker is married to Glenn Baker and is a teacher with 31 years’ experience in the Kentucky school system.Growing up, Stella was an avid reader and writer and dreamed of inspiring the youth of Kentucky to develop their reading and writing abilities. Because of this, she pursued a career in education. She holds an A.A. degree from Lees College in Jackson, KY, a Bachelor’s Degree from E.K.U, a Master’s Degree and a Rank 1 from E.K.U. She also has an endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education.

Kari Patrick – 2016 High School Teacher of the Year Award

Kari W. Patrick teaches at Shelby County High School in Shelbyville, KY where she serves as English department chair and teaches tenth graders. Kari is a Teacher Champion and a Next Generation Instructional Design Teacher. Kari is a Hope Street Group Kentucky Teacher Fellow. Kari is passionate about teacher induction and its role in professionalizing teaching and improving student performance.  Follow her @MrsPatrickSCHS.


Dottie Willis – 2016 College Teacher of the Year Award

Dr. Dottie Willis joined Bellarmine in August 2008, she earned her B.A. at George Peabody College-Vanderbilt University, M.S. at Indiana-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Ed.D. at the University of Louisville, and principal certification at Spalding University. Her research focuses on literacy and writing instruction. As Writing Specialist for the Jefferson County (Kentucky) Public Schools from 2002-2007, she published twenty units for teaching middle and high school language arts. She has also authored articles in the Kentucky English Bulletin and Kentucky Library Association Journal. Dr. Willis has served on the Kentucky Writing Advisory Committee and currently is a member of the Louisville Writing Project Board of Directors. Dottie Willis is author of the high school curriculum featured on National Public Radio’s This I Believe .org and serves on the national board of directors for NPR’s This I Believe.

The 2015 Award Winners: 

High School Teacher of the Year:  Brent Peters
Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jennifer Yuenger
Elementary Teacher of the Year: Hannah Stark

Gretchen Niva Service Award – Deanna Mascle

Judith P. Whitson Admin Award – Tracy Devney

Stephanie Kirk Award – Jeanette Barreiro

SLATE – Jessica Andrews/Gregory Quenon

The 2014 Award winners:

College: Jean Wolph, University of Louisville

High School: Jessica Pass, Boone County HS

Middle: Lauren Coffee, Bowling Green Jr. High

Elementary: Michele McCloughan, T.C. Cherry Elem. in Bowling Green

Stephanie Kirk Award: Danielle Hicks and Joyce Groce