The Daviess County Public Schools district has announced 2017 Great Expectations Teachers of the Year. Each DCPS school nominated and selected an outstanding teacher based on their unique teaching qualities and innovative practices that support quality teaching and learning in their classrooms. These exceptional educators model and support “Great Expectations” for all students, every day!

These individuals (listed below) are now eligible for the DCPS Great Expectations Teaching Excellence Awards at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Those winners will be announced at during the DCPS Opening Day program at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

Audubon Elementary School – Tina Jennings
Tina Jennings is focused on providing the best instruction and environment for her kids. She has implemented a self-paced curriculum where students are able to work and complete math lessons at their own pace. Her goal was to create a comfortable, inviting learning environment. One of her favorite sayings is “I’m not going to tell you the answer because nothing feels better than figuring it out for yourself.” She understands the importance of the home/school connection and makes herself available to parents. She knows many students do not have internet access at home so she comes in every day before school to provide students with the opportunity to come to her classroom and work on their self-paced math lessons. This is her way of removing that barrier to ensure all students have an opportunity for success. Tina takes on responsibilities with a “get it done” attitude, whether in the classroom, PLC time or leading committee work.

Burns Elementary School – Larkin Wetzel
Larkin Wetzel truly has a heart for students and nothing makes her happier than seeing a student experience success. Her contributions go beyond her services as a speech-language pathologist and demonstrate loves and acceptance for all students through her leadership role on the Everybody Counts Council. She started the BES Bobcat Squad in response to recognizing a need for students to be taught basic life skills of manners, respect, character, attitude, leadership and service – characteristics that will benefit students for the rest of their lives. She makes sure students can make those real-world connections and apply skills beyond the walls of her classroom. She is never satisfied with “good” when something better is possible. Larkin is constantly looking for new resources and methods of teaching that will help students be successful. When she finds something that works, she makes sure the classroom teachers are “in the know” so they too can utilize these tools and resources.

Country Heights Elementary School – Brooke Mohon
Brooke Mohon demonstrates characteristics that are important to both students and parents, including passion and communication. Students respond to a teacher’s passion and her strategies for hooking them in every day. Brooke communicates with parents to ensure they know what is going on and what their children will be learning each week. She also implements a self-pacing strategy in her classroom that allows children who have grasped specific concepts to move forward with their learning, while others receive additional support to ensure a strong foundation of understanding. Brooke makes learning fun and memorable. She takes the time to learn about each child and discover his or her interests. All of her students know she wants them to be their best and learn all they can.

Deer Park Elementary School – Rachel Jicka
Rachel Jicka is a “builder” – bridging gaps in student learning and building relationships with students, parents and staff. There is such a strong sense of community and respect within her classroom! She is compassionate and positive. Students are taught and modeled self-control and responsibility. Rachel understands that students should be challenged to be curious, eager to learn and do whatever it takes to learn. Her reading workshop is meaningful to the students. She carefully selects texts that are rigorous, differentiated and interesting to them so students can learn to read and read to learn. Rachel models and supports “Great Expectations” for ALL in numerous ways. She holds herself accountable for her students’ learning. Research tells us that the single most important factor determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of the teacher. Rachel Jicka provides a top notch education for her students by demonstrating a love of learning, strong knowledge of reading instruction, clear and positive classroom management techniques, enthusiasm, student engagement and most important, a desire to make a difference in the lives of her students.

East View Elementary School – Nick Whiteside
Nick Whiteside’s positive attitude and passion to see all kids succeed is felt at all times. He teaches many concepts related to physical education and health, but he does so through various ways in order to reach all of his students. Although he teaches more than 500 students weekly, he manages to build relationships with those students with his kind and encouraging demeanor. He understands that students learn in different ways so he designs rigorous and relevant lessons for his learners using various teaching strategies. He also encourages many activities that require collaboration and cooperation – skills that will benefit students throughout their life. When testing accountability was removed from Arts and Humanities and Practical Living, Nick continued to teach with high expectations in mind as he continued to see more value in his own daily accountability to his students than solely a standardized test in sight. He collaborates and communicates with teachers and parents in an effort to provide support for students and an overall awareness of healthy initiatives.

Highland Elementary School – Gina Dailey
Gina Dailey exemplifies a true “lifelong learner” and a true 21st century educator. She is constantly researching and implementing best-practice techniques as Highland’s media specialist. Even though her “class” is considered a “special” or a “pull-out,” she pours her heart and soul into the time she has with students every day and makes every minute count. Students are learning, students are engaged, students are researching, students are creating and students are cognitively engaged at all times! Gina makes each of her classes unique, relevant and geared toward the needs and interests of the students. She always collaborates with teachers, working to incorporate regular classroom activities and projects into each and every lesson. She understands that learning is unique at each grade level. Even after almost 10 years as media specialist, she continues to create and recreate her curriculum to coincide with current teaching practices and learning standards. She talks with kids on their level and listens to what they have to say. Each child is special to her.

Meadow Lands Elementary School – Valerie Neville
Valerie Neville has a vast knowledge of hands-on, skills-based techniques that allow students to be engaged and interactive in their learning. As a special education teacher, she knows the stakes are high and gives the most of herself every day to enable and encourage her students to learn. She tailors her instruction for each of her students in a way that helps them see the best in themselves and strengthen the unique abilities each of them has. Valerie works to instill valuable educational tools and lessons of friendship, empathy and self-motivation to provide the best foundation for her students. Her classroom is art in motion as students learn to believe in themselves and the endless possibilities of their education. Students are challenged to work beyond their comfort zones and to never give up on themselves. As one parent said, “She sees the ability in his disability. She never gives up on her students and shows them such unbelievable compassion and love.”

Sorgho Elementary School – Stephanie Rhye
Stephanie Rhye is a great role model and advocate for her students and does the same for her parents as well. She understands that life doesn’t always go as planned and shows kindness and empathy to make sure everyone is respected. She is not afraid to keep parents involved and informed. She gives her students a clear image of her expectations; she is consistent and they know what to expect. Stephanie knows each child has a different learning style and personality. Instead of trying to have them fit in a cookie-cutter format, she acknowledges their individuality and builds upon their unique styles. Stephanie finds ways to help each child understand expectations and provides guidance and encouragement that is appropriate to each child’s level to help them meet those goals. She reminds children to put first things first and that they are in charge of themselves. She is truly an asset to the school and a wonderful person.

Southern Oaks Elementary School – Kristy Standiford
Kristy Standiford has many different and unique teaching qualities. She offers a variety of seating choices, which help students learn and focus. As one of her students said, “The way her classroom is set up with ‘free choice’ seating helps us very much. She always lets us know we are loved and cared for. She has a sign on her wall that lists her expectations but her expectations go beyond a sign. She lets us know what she expects. She always lets us know she cares. She loves us so much and helps us correct ourselves. I’ve had trouble with my grades in the past but with Mrs. Standiford it has changed from E’s to A’s and B’s. That change can only happen with an amazing teacher like Mrs. Standiford. She cares about each and every one of us and pushes us to think hard and to try. She knows when I’m mad, sad, happy or just need a hug. If I need a shoulder to cry on, she’s there. Only a good teacher like Mrs. Standiford cares that much.”

Tamarack Elementary School – Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith works tirelessly in striving to help each of her students attain the highest levels of personal and academic success. She has created a community with open lines of communication between parents, students and herself, with all of us working for the same goal of success for the student. She is a fearless and tireless worker. She puts her all into each child. She empowers students to discover their passions and finds great books, newspapers and articles to use those passions as rewards and motivations. She impacts families on a personal level. When the father of one student was diagnosed with cancer, she told the mother, “You focus on your husband’s care. I’ve got your son.” She stayed late and helped this child with homework so that would be one less thing for the mother to do at home. She opened a line of communication by inviting this child to have lunch with her and talk about life and the things he was feeling in regards to his dad’s cancer. She has not only taught lessons that matter with education, but she has also taught great lessons of caring and friendship.

West Louisville Elementary School – Jennifer Malott
Jennifer Malott brings fun to her instruction, exhibits a professional demeanor and develops strong relationships with both children and families. In all ways, Jennifer embodies excellence in teaching. As the speech language pathologist at West Louisville Elementary School, her enthusiasm for teaching and quest for student growth is evident. She makes sure she is on the cutting edge with new therapies and ways to assist students. Through her work with various technology tools, therapy aides and visual modeling, Jennifer is truly making a difference in the lives of the students she works with. She always has a positive attitude and demonstrates a strong work ethic. She wants and expects the best of her students and herself. She works hard and refuses to give up on anyone or any situation. Jennifer goes above and beyond to vary lessons and materials to meet the diverse needs of her students. She provides parents with detailed feedback about their child’s progress. She is a remarkably dedicated teacher and parents fully trust her with their children.

Whitesville Elementary School – Jessica Doughty
Jessica Doughty has strong character that makes her an ideal role model for her students. She teaches them not only the curriculum but how to be an outstanding person through their own actions. She celebrates her students and her peers and is always lifting others up. As a positive and genuine person, her strong relationships make kids want to be their best. She motivates them through respecting them as individuals and appreciating their uniqueness. She finds and builds on each child’s talents, and relates content to what they are interested in. Jessica always finds what works best for children and does it to the best of her ability to help students learn. She is always finding new ways to teach and make her lessons fun for kids to learn. She encourages her students to take risks. She emphasizes the power of “yet!” She gives her all and puts her heart and soul into everything she does.

Burns Middle School – Tricia Milburn
Tricia Milburn is a tremendous teacher who is focused on providing an enriching learning environment while challenging her students with a rigorous curriculum. She provides a highly engaging learning environment where students are constantly learning. Tricia’s classroom is constantly developing and evolving to meet the needs of students. She challenges students to meet their goals and then to storm past their goals. Tricia is a role model for her students as she is constantly learning and growing as a teacher and as a person. She is willing to try new strategies and is willing to let her students know when something doesn’t work. Tricia understands that a teacher is always teaching: In the classroom, in the hallway, in the car rider line and in the grocery store. She thoroughly gets the fact that she is teaching middle school students. She is not teaching language arts; she is teaching her students how to apply language arts to their everyday lives.

College View Middle School – Christina O’Bryan Howard
Christina O’Bryan Howard is a true model of a teacher leader as she exhibits leadership, attention to detail, clear planning and rigorous assessment designs. She teaches a class that gives eligible students the opportunity to earn high school credit. She does not spoon-feed her students; they have to do the work in order to make progress. She holds math study sessions in the morning for her algebra students so they have extra time to work on difficult concepts. This is not just a study hall; she uses her personal time to help with instruction for her students. Every seat is full in these sessions; she loves what she does and it shows in her love for all students. She uses different teaching methods like direct instruction, modeling, mastery learning and concept attainment and incorporates appropriate technology into her classroom. She understands that not every student is visual or auditory; kinesthetic students learn by movement in her classroom. Her “YMCA” song for teaching slope (Y=MX+B) is just one of her many great variations for teaching math.

Daviess County Middle School – Ginger Estes
Ginger Estes works tireless in her pursuit of knowledge, discovering new activities and strategies for her classroom. Her impact goes beyond her own students to reach the entire school, our district and educational establishments across the state. Advocating for both students and teachers, Ginger is actively involved in innovative teaching through her work with numerous state organizations. She is willing to implement her professional development in her classroom and then shares what works with colleagues. Students in Ginger’s classroom are experiencing the latest reading and writing strategies, delivered by an exemplary practitioner. It is not uncommon to see Ginger with students or teachers before school, during her planning time or after school as she provides support and guidance for whoever is in need. As a devoted member of the DCMS Panther family, she also contributes to the school community as a leader, sponsor and representative to various committees and groups, and as a “Why Try” coach for some of our more challenging students. Students feel loved yet they know she has high expectations; she is respected by all.

Apollo High School – Melissa Jackson
Melissa Jackson has an engaging personality and develops strong bonds with each of her students. Her unique perspective of growing up with a sibling who has an intellectual disability has contributed to her success as a special education teacher. She has a genuine passion and enthusiasm for her students and goes above and beyond to ensure they reach their fullest potential. Melissa recognizes that every child is a different learner type and finds meaningful ways to deliver content to her students. She has excellent classroom management skills, promoting positive behaviors and good work habits. She supports her students in all their endeavors, even beyond the classroom. Melissa has “Great Expectations” for all of her students. She looks beyond the disability to find their individual strengths and abilities, and encourages every student to always do his best.

Daviess County High School – Steve Easley
Steve Easley has an unmatched empathy and dedication to his students. The way he presents information in more than one way ensures that everyone understands the information, even when it is difficult. He creates an atmosphere of community within his classroom. When he is teaching, it seems more like a conversation instead of a lecture; this helps students understand the material, especially when they know it is okay for them to ask any question they have. In nominating his teacher for this award, one of his students noted that Steve “causes learning to happen by using more than just his voice and a PowerPoint to teach. He uses Crash Course videos, games and demonstrations. These outside sources elaborate on the topic and give us a chance to have fun while learning important material. He uses Guided Readings to further conversations. He will send home a packet for us to read, analyze and answer questions; the next day, we will take what we learned in those packets and expand on it, ask questions and further our knowledge rather than spend time on him lecturing the material. This lets us move along quickly while still learning the material.”

Valley School – Darla Brooks
Darla Brooks teaches in a unique environment; her classroom may contain students from kindergarten through sixth grade. She demonstrates competence in working with a wide range of ages, temperaments and cognitive levels. She individualizes lessons for each student and modifies work according to ability, and advocates for students with special needs. She is vigilant in efforts to make learning enjoyable as well as accessible to every child. Students are engaged in multimodal learning throughout the day. She encourages students to exhibit respect for themselves, others and their environment. Students are responsible for making proactive choices concerning their behavior and held accountable for their actions. She sets high expectations for students and communicates them clearly. Through established procedures, maintained routines, high expectations and a nurturing environment, Darla’s classroom is conducive to learning and a place where students flourish. She also incorporates life skills such as economic concepts, hygiene practices and time management into daily lessons so students are prepared for future transitions.

(NOTE: Heritage Park High School, Owensboro Day Treatment and Valley School recognize Teachers of the Year on a rotating basis.)