Alumni Spotlight

Kathy Spears, '87

By: Michelle Goff
May 16, 2016

Kathy Spears’ experience at Pikeville College wasn’t what she thought it would be. In fact, it was better than she expected.

“I had been out of school for many years,” Spears recalls. “I started college when I was 31, and I was a non-traditional student. I had my children and needed a place where I could commute.”

Spears continues, “I expected that I would just go to class, come home, and study, and repeat the next day. The other students were very good to me. They treated me like one of them. We formed a study group and we would go to Jerry’s and eat. It was a wonderful, family-like atmosphere and I still stay in contact with many of my classmates.”

After graduating in 1987, Spears began her teaching career. For her, there was never a question of what profession she would choose or what subject she would teach.

“I love the school atmosphere,” she says, “and the whole truth is that I always loved reading so much that I had to find a socially acceptable way to spend all of my time in books. Shella Damron (’72), and I promised that we would never talk about our arthritis when we get old. We will always discuss literature.”

Spears, who taught at Millard High School for 15 years and East Ridge High School for 12 years, began teaching dual credit classes for the University of Pikeville in 2010. Although she says she will probably retire after this, her 29th year of teaching, she will not soon forget the students who have passed through her classroom.

“No reward is greater than to have a former student say that I influenced him/her to succeed,” she shares. “On a lighter note . . . one Friday afternoon I was handing out report cards. One of my students begged me to keep his until Monday. I’ll never forget what he said: ‘My parents have already taken my TV and phone. If I take this home, they will turn off the heat and electricity to my room.’”

Spears also credits her students and school family with helping her after the death of her son, Gary Brian Spears.

“My memories are all tied up in the realization that one of many reasons I was called to teach is so that God could send comforters when I lost my son,” Spears reflects. “My students have been my therapy, and the friends I made through teaching support me still.”

To honor their son, Spears and her husband, Gary, established a scholarship, the Gary Brian Spears Endowed Scholarship, at UPIKE. Awarded to students who graduate from East Ridge High School, 2016 marks the scholarship’s 25th year.
“We wanted to do something in his memory. He was only 16 and so sweet natured,” Spears recalls.

Spears says her family also wanted to recognize their ties to UPIKE. Her daughter, Krista, graduated from Pikeville College in 1994. A school guidance counselor, Krista has two daughters – Jordyn Bell Taylor and Alexis Bell – and one son, Anthony Garin Bell. A two-time UPIKE graduate, Jordyn graduated in 2010 and earned her registered nursing degree in 2015. Alexis is on track to graduate from UPIKE in May and Spears’ husband spent two years at Pikeville.

“My dad started at the college, but got homesick and went home. I wish he had stayed,” she reflects. “We would have four generations of UPIKE graduates.”

Then again, with granddaughter Jordyn expecting a baby girl, Spears says, “(UPIKE Student Success Counselor) Mandy Stacy sent the baby a Bears onesie, so we might get that fourth generation after all.”

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