WKCTC's Regional Educators Awards and Scholarship Program Five Year Milestone
Paducah, KY (04/22/2022) — A record-breaking crowd attended the 5th Annual Regional Educators Awards and Scholarship Program at West Kentucky Community and Technical College Thursday, April 21. Developing a program to celebrate this area's elementary and secondary educators, administrators and staff was the idea of WKCTC President Anton Reece.
"I am thoroughly excited and humbled that my vision of recognizing and celebrating our regional K-12 partners has entered its fifth year!" Reece said. "It is equally heartwarming that countless award recipients are also being recognized by students and families at their respective schools and districts. Thank you to all our teachers and staff who continue to make a difference in students' lives."
The awards program was established in August 2017 to recognize pre-kindergarten through high school educators, administrators and staff members who have gone beyond their daily responsibilities and have worked tirelessly on behalf of students, parents and the community. The recognition is for individuals in WKCTC's service region, including Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, and McCracken counties, Kentucky, and Alexander, Hardin, Massac, Pope and Pulaski counties in Illinois.
Deserving faculty and staff were nominated for awards in five categories: distinguished faculty for grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, distinguished faculty for grades sixth through 12th grades, distinguished administrators, and the Cornelia Reece Unsung Hero Support Staff Award and Unsung Hero Administrative Staff Award. The Unsung Hero awards are named for WKCTC's First Lady and wife of President Reece.
Students, parents, community members, and colleagues submitted more than 180 faculty, staff and administrator nominations. Each nominee was then asked to submit an application.
More than 90 nominees who completed an application were recognized and received a framed certificate during the ceremony. One Livingston County staff member was nominated the same month he passed away at the age of 58. Alfred Grady "Junior" Ramage was nominated for an Unsung Hero Support Staff Award for working for more than 13 years in the maintenance department of Livingston Central High School. His sister, Ashley Rupcke, accepted his certificate during the program.
A selection committee of educators and business and community leaders reviewed the submitted applications and selected the finalists and a winner in each category. For the first time, an anonymous donor made it possible for the college to award each top winner $250 and a trophy.
The 2022 winners and finalists in each category are:
Distinguished Faculty (Pre-K-5th grade) Award Winner - Cynthia Collins, Heath Elementary School kindergarten Jump Start teacher
Finalists - Keri. L. Cornwell, Symsonia Elementary School 3rd & 4th grade science teacher and Brittany Riley, Morgan Elementary School 3rd grade teacher
Distinguished Faculty (6th - 12th grade) Award Winner - Courtney Carter Brantley, McCracken County High School family and consumer sciences teacher
Finalists - Elaine R. Farris, Lone Oak Middle School special education teacher, and Robert Wade Morse, Paducah Tilghman High School English department chair
Distinguished Administrator Award Winner - Geco E. Ross, Paducah Middle School principal
Finalists - Billy Edwards, Mayfield High School principal, and Jonathan Reid, Hendron-Lone Oak Elementary School principal
Cornelia Reece Unsung Hero Administrative Staff Award Winner - LaToya Benberry, McNabb Elementary School Kids Co. II director
Finalists - Ann Samons, Murray High School counselor, and Brandon Uzzle, Fulton County Schools Family Ties Director (FRYSC)
Cornelia Reece Unsung Hero Staff Award Winner - Todd Moore, Paducah Public Schools maintenance supervisor
Finalists - Wanda Kay Rouse, Paducah Public Schools administrative assistant - personnel, and Annaka Wilson, Paducah Public Schools finance secretary and bookkeeper
In conjunction with the awards program, a scholarship for WKCTC students interested in K-12 teaching or educational support majors was established to encourage and assist the region's future educators. Since the program's inception, sponsors and other contributors have given more than $40,000 to the Regional Educators Program Future Educators Scholarship. This year's sponsors were gold partner Morsey Constructors; silver partners Community Financial Services Bank (CFSB) and Paducah Junior College Inc.; and bronze partners CSI, Paducah Ford, Ken Wheeler, Chuck Murphy and WPSD-TV Local 6/The Paducah Sun.
During the program, Dr. Reece also surprised four individuals with a special award to recognize their excellence in leadership and service to education. A President's Award went to Jill Rogers, fifth grade teacher at Community Christian Academy, named the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah Outstanding Educator. Rogers has been a lead 5th grade teacher at Community Christian Academy for 12 years and taught kindergarten for two years at the academy. She works on various committees, including CCA's Leadership Team and the curriculum strategic planning committee. She was nominated for the Distinguished Faculty Award (PreK-5) in 2019 and has participated in the Challenger Learning Center's in-service each summer since 2008.
Dr. William Murphy, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and former director of the University of Kentucky College of Engineering's Paducah campus, wasn't in attendance to accept his plaque. Still, Dr. Reece recognized his partnership with WKCTC. In 1998, Dr. Murphy was instrumental in shaping the unique program that offers engineering degrees through a "2-plus-2" program in Paducah. The University of Kentucky, in collaboration with West Kentucky Community and Technical College, offers studies leading to bachelor's degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering.
A third President's Award went to Donna Newsome Hawkins. A Paducah Tilghman High School graduate, Hawkins received an associate in science degree from what was then Paducah Community College. She went on to get her bachelor's and master's degrees from Murray State University. She taught for 29 years for Paducah Public Schools, where she served as a supervising teacher and a resource teacher, among many other positions.
Lastly, a President's award went to McCracken County Superintendent Steve Carter. Carter has been superintendent since 2019. He brought 23 years of experience in education to his position in McCracken County. Carter earned his Master of Arts degree in educational administration from Murray State University and started as a social studies teacher in Crittenden County. Dr. Reece praised Carter for leading McCracken County Schools' diversity efforts, including establishing a multicultural club and a Community Outreach and Diversity Coordinator.
Guest speaker, entrepreneur, retired athlete, businessman, model, and actor George Wilson shared his experience growing up and going to schools in Paducah. "Education should be a lifelong journey," he said. "And that journey begins with teachers leading the way."
With one of his former elementary school teachers, Donna Newsome Hawkins, sitting in the front row, Wilson got a little choked up as he looked down from the podium at her. "I can stand here today and let you know I am not where I am today on my own," he said. "My teachers, my coaches, my principals had a huge impact on my life."