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University of Pikeville honors distinguished educators

November 21, 2017 12:00 AM
Pikeville, KY
When the Pikeville Collegiate Institute established a training school for teachers in 1901, the institution’s founders had no way of knowing the fruits of their labor. Since that time, hundreds of University of Pikeville graduates have made the classroom their life’s work.

The Distinguished Educators Hall of Fame was established in 2010 to honor those whose contributions to learning have inspired generations of students and made a significant impact in the field of education.

This year’s inductees include Derena Coleman of Pikeville, Tammie Combs of Whitesburg, Shella Damron of Pikeville, Cheryl Fain of Virgie, Janice Hall of Hi Hat, Brenda Maynard of Richmond, Lisa Tackett of Hi Hat, Ricky Thacker of Pikeville, and Leah Turner of Floyd County.

Derena Michelle Spears Coleman has taught elementary students in Pike County for 18 years. Those who have the opportunity to visit her classroom 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 puts into action a plan that will help the child advance in and out of the classroom. She currently teaches at Mullins School where she serves as third grade teacher, assistant cheer coach, Fellowship of Christian Athletes assistant, and supports the student “Back Pack” food program. 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.

Tammie Bates Combs has been an elementary classroom teacher for 28 years. 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. She is a member of the Kentucky Education Association and has earned a 25-year service pin from Letcher County Board of Education.

Shella Louise Damron 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. “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.”  

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 for seven years before transferring to Virgie Middle School. There she taught seventh and eighth grade reading and journalism for 12 years. Fain is currently in her first year at Northpoint Academy after choosing to pursue teaching and counseling at-risk students.

Janice Hall has been teaching for 23 years and currently serves as 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. “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. 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.”

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 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. 

Pictured are members of the University of Pikeville Distinguished Educators Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The Distinguished Educators Hall of Fame was established in 2010 to honor those whose contributions to education and to learning have inspired generations of students. Front row, from left, Cheryl Fain of Virgie, Lisa Tackett of Hi Hat, Ricky Thacker of Pikeville, Leah Turner of Floyd County, Derena Coleman of Pikeville, Brenda Maynard of Richmond, Janice Hall of Hi Hat, and Shella Damron of Pikeville. Not pictured Tammie Combs of Whitesburg.

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