2017 Inductees

Derena Coleman

“Her love and passion for teaching is only surpassed by her love for her students.” That powerful statement summarizes Derena Michelle Spears Coleman’s calling to become an educator.
Coleman has taught elementary students in Pike County for 18 years. If you had the opportunity to visit her classroom you would quickly see that she radiates excitement and enthusiasm and utilizes hands-on learning activities. She is quick to acknowledge what works best for a child and put into action a plan that will help the child advance in and out of the classroom. 
She was so excited to begin her teaching journey that she accepted her first job at Majestic Elementary which was more than an hour from her home. It was there that she was mentored by a veteran teacher leader who taught her to educate, love and nurture every student. She also taught at Kimper Elementary for one year before transferring close to her home at Millard Elementary where she remained for 10 years before teaching at Mullins School. At Mullins, she currently serves as third grade teacher, assistant cheer coach, Fellowship of Christian Athletes assistant, and supports the student “Back Pack” food program. 
An alumna of Pikeville College, Coleman earned her master’s degree from Morehead State University and a Rank I in instructional supervision from Union College. Upon graduation she received the Rediford Damron Teaching Excellence Award at Pikeville College. Her work in the classroom has also been recognized with the Mullins Community Service Award and has earned the Best in the Valley Teacher Award multiple times. She currently serves on the board of the Patton College of Education teacher education committee and is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Eastern Kentucky.
Coleman is a servant leader at Pikeville Free Will Baptist Church where she serves as Sunday school teacher, youth leader, and children’s church worker. 
She has been married to her best friend, Ronald Coleman, for 24 years. The couple has been blessed with three children, Jacob David Coleman, Mary-Abigail Coleman, and the late Rachael Coleman.


Tammie Combs
Tammie Bates Combs has been an elementary classroom teacher for 28 years.
“Ms. Combs works tirelessly to teach all students. She has high expectations for her students and makes a difference in the lives of every student she teaches,” read her nomination form.
Throughout her nearly three decades of teaching she has served students in a variety of roles including cheerleading coach, academic coach, pom-pom coach, and member of the 21st Century program committee, the committee of elementary schools and the district curriculum committee. She has been a member of School-Based Decision Making, both as a parent and teacher.
A graduate of Knott County Central High School, Combs received her bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Pikeville College and went on to earn a master’s degree from Morehead State University.
She is a member of the Kentucky Education Association and has earned a 25 year service pin from Letcher County Board of Education.
“Tammie is totally dedicated to her students and her coworkers. She motivates her students to become lifelong learners and pushes them outside their comfort zones. She is a wonderful mentor and I have learned so much about education and student motivation from working with her,” said April Cupp.
She and her husband, David Lee Combs, have two daughters, Carli Danielle Combs, a pre-med student and cheerleader at Union College, and Meghan Lee-Ann Combs, a senior volleyball and softball player at Letcher County Central High School. The Combs family resides in Whitesburg.


 
Shella Damron
Shella Louise Damron’s grandmother, Oma Justice, always encouraged her to go to college and become a teacher. She was a first-generation college graduate, although her great-grandfather had been a school teacher. 
Her teaching career began in 1972, immediately upon college graduation. The first seven years she taught French half-days at Millard High and Feds Creek High. The remaining 23 years she taught French and English at Millard High School. After serving the students in the Pike County School System for 30 years Damron taught at Christ Central School for more than two years.
“I loved exposing my French students to French culture and took students on trips to Quebec City and New Orleans. Many of my students had never travelled outside of Kentucky or even Pike County,” said Damron. 
“My greatest passion was teaching English, especially literature, poetry and writing. For me, there is no greater joy than watching students enjoy discussing the elements of a short story, play or poem, or observing their improvement with every draft of a piece of writing,” said Damron.
“But most of all, I wanted to create a welcoming environment of love and acceptance for all students in my classroom and then help equip them with skills and knowledge to succeed.”  
Damron received her bachelor’s degree from Pikeville College and her master’s degree from Morehead State University. She is a member of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, Pike County Retired Teachers Association, the Christ Central Board of Directors and Women on Mission at Grace Baptist Church.
“Shella Damron is the epitome of a ‘distinguished’ educator,” said a former student from Millard High School. “In my life of learning, I’ve never had a teacher better or more professional than Shella. Lessons I learned as a freshman in her English class in the 1981-1982 school year have stuck with me all these years.”
She and her husband, Ron, have on daughter, LaDeanna Damron Jones.


 
Cheryl Fain
After dabbling in several occupations, Cheryl Fain knew teaching was what she was meant to do. She went back to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary English from Pikeville College and a master’s degree in school counseling and is now in her 20th year teaching in the Pike County School System. 
Following graduation from Pikeville College she taught English 101 at her alma mater. In September 1998, she joined the faculty at Shelby Valley High School teaching English I–IV, journalism and yearbook where she taught for seven years before transferring to Virgie Middle School. There she taught seventh and eighth grade reading and journalism for 12 years.
Leaving a position she loved at Valley Elementary, Fain is currently in her first year at Northpoint Academy after chosing to pursue teaching and counseling at-risk students.
Fain keeps abreast of new and innovative teaching techniques that inspire her students to learn. She devotes time to examining her students’ learning styles so she can match instructional methods and materials to best reach each student. She teaches to the whole class as well as the individual student. 
A couple of years ago, Fain said to her daughter, “I think this year’s class is going to be my favorite class ever.” She replied, “Mom, you say that every year!” 
“I definitely love what I do, and for me, I have the best job on the planet,” said Fain. Her favorite quote is ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’  -Confucius
Fain has three children and five granddaughters.


 
Janice Hall
Janice Hall has been teaching for 23 years and says, “I love my job!”
“Mrs. Janice Hall is one of the most dedicated teachers. Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students and she tries to find ways to make sure every child learns, and they do,” said a fellow teacher.
Currently teaching reading recovery and comprehensive intervention model (CIM) at South Floyd Elementary, Hall has taught primary for 18 years and is in her sixth year of teaching reading recovery and CIM.
She has also served her students as assistant academic team coach and young author coordinator and was a 2016 national “Life Changer of the Year” nominee.
After graduating from Wheelwright High School she earned her bachelor’s degree in early elementary education from Alice Lloyd College. Hall completed her fifth-year, which is equivalent to a master’s degree, at Morehead State University and received certification in reading recovery and CIM through University of Kentucky.
She and her husband, Winston Eugene Hall, have one daughter, Stephanie Lawson who teaches kindergarten. She has one granddaughter, Alexis Lawson, who is a senior at Floyd Central High School. She is actively involved in The Little Rock Old Regular Baptist Church. Hall enjoys fishing and campfires with her family and lives at Hi Hat. 



Brenda Maynard
Brenda Stanley Maynard has led a distinguished career in education, both as a teacher and as an administrator. She currently serves as National School Administrative Manager Innovation Project coach, supervisor for the teacher education program at University of the Cumberlands and National School Administrative Manager Implementation Specialist.
During an education career that spans more than four decades, Maynard taught English to middle and high school students before serving at the administrative level for Pike County Schools as Title I writing coordinator and director of curriculum and instruction. Her extensive career also includes serving as a mentor and leader in several organizations across the state including Bellarmine University Principal Internship Supervision, Kentucky Association of School Executives Work Team, Kentucky Instructional Leadership Team Network Coach, Kentucky Cohesive Leadership Continuum for Principal Preparation and Development, and University of the Cumberlands university supervisor. She has also published articles on the topics of rural education and principal training.
Her contributions to education have been recognized by the University of Chicago (Teacher of Excellence), Harvard University (Teacher Recognition Award), and WalMart (Teacher of the Year).
Among all her accolades and accomplishments the most significant is the lasting impact Maynard made on her students.
“Mrs. Maynard encouraged me to challenge myself and to this day my reading habits reflect her influence. I will forever owe her my gratitude for that and for explaining adverbs in a way that was easy to understand,” said a former student.
Maynard earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Pikeville College, a master’s degree in secondary education and an educational supervision certification from Morehead State University.
She is a member of the Kentucky Education Association and the National Council of Teachers of English and serves as a Sunday school teacher.
She has one daughter, Brooke Maynard McNeil, one son, Mark Maynard, and six grandchildren, Tyler Maynard, Joshua Maynard, Jaxon McNeil, Kennedy McNeil and Amelia McNeil.


 
Lisa Tackett
Lisa Tackett has been educator in the Floyd County School system for 28 years, spending the majority of that time at Wheelwright and South Floyd high schools. She is currently a middle school special education teacher at South Floyd Elementary.
Throughout her career, Tackett has contributed to the field of education in a variety of roles. She has served as the special education department lead for 26 years, KTIP resource teacher for 10 years and has five years of experience with the Co-Teaching for Gap Closure Initiative.  
Tackett was instrumental in designing and implementing an after-school credit recovery program for South Floyd High School students. She received a grant that she utilized to develop a mentoring program, Partnership to Proficiency, where seniors were paired with at-risk freshmen. She has also presented at the district professional development academy providing information to new and experienced teachers.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Pikeville College and her special education endorsement, master’s degree in middle grades education, master’s degree in school administration and certificate for director of special education from Morehead State University.  
She was named Floyd County’s Walmart Teacher of the Year in 2007 and South Floyd High School Teacher of the Year in 1999. 
Tackett is a member of Pine Grove Baptist Church where she has served in multiple roles and is currently the church treasurer. She has volunteered with many community activities including the Big Sandy Senior games.
She is married to James, a mine safety specialist, and has one daughter, Tabatha Hamilton, who is a pharmacist for Rite Aid in Pikeville, and one son, James Brandon Tackett, who is a registered nurse in the cardiac unit at Pikeville Medical Center. She has three grandchildren, Easton Scott, Annsleigh Kayte and Jaxton Luke.



Ricky Thacker
Throughout his 11 years in the education profession Ricky Thacker’s passion for teaching has created unique opportunities, and he has taken full advantage of every one of them.
Thacker accepted a position as mathematics teacher at Betsy Layne immediately following graduation. After a couple years of teaching he discovered he was novice in connecting to every student, such as gifted and talented and special needs. That realization led him to pursue his master’s degree specializing in special education which enhanced his ability to reach every Algebra I student. 
On the recommendation of his principal, he obtained his Rank I so he could serve in an administrative position. In August 2017 he was named assistant principal and athletic director at Prestonsburg High School.
“Teaching and education is not a job for me, it is a passion,” said Thacker. “My passion to make a difference for every student is what drives me every day.”
His innovative approach to learning was recognized by the Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates wrote in her blog, “Like all of the most successful schools we’ve visited, Betsy Layne’s teachers and administrators use a combination of compassion and sky-high expectations to drive its young people to succeed.”
In addition his current roles at Prestonsburg, he taught Algebra I and served as the freshmen department chair at Betsy Layne, and currently serves as the 15th Region All “A” representative.  
He is a member of the Appalachian Leadership Laboratory (ALL) sponsored by Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). Through ALL, he serves as a teacher leader through KVEC’s proprietary continuous school improvement program: Perpetuating Excellence in Teaching, Leadership and Learning (PETLL).
Thacker earned his bachelor’s degree from Pikeville College, a master’s degree in education from Union College and education specialist degree from University of the Cumberlands.
He and his wife Stephanie have one son, Braden, and one daughter, Isabella.


 
Leah Turner
Leah Turner knew from an early age that she wanted to become a teacher. She credits her third-grade teacher as the reason she chose to become an educator. Turner shows the same compassion for her elementary students and hopes to influence them in the classroom the same way that she was inspired by her teacher. 
“She’s a fabulous teacher. She engages all students and truly cares for them and the kids know that, and that’s why she’s successful … the kids know she cares for them inside and outside of the classroom,” shared a coworker.
She is serving her 18th year as an educator in the Floyd County School System and is currently teaching fourth and fifth grades at Duff-Allen Central Elementary. Turner earned her bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and completed her fifth-year program. 
Her nomination form read: “Leah creates a classroom environment where learning takes place at high levels every day. She uses varied instructional strategies to make sure all her students succeed. She strives to involve parents in their child’s education by using effective communication skills between school and home.”
She is a member of the Kentucky Education Association. She and her husband, Wesley, have two children, Brooklyn, 15, and Keithen, 11.

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