Murray State graduate sets the standard for special education

By Emily Hannan | Feb 8, 2016

Kelly Teague was honored as Kentucky’s Special Education Teacher of the Year

Kelly Teague was honored as Kentucky’s Special Education Teacher of the Year

MURRAY, Ky. — Kelly Teague received her bachelor's degree in May of 2009 from Murray State  University. She is certified to teach elementary education grades K-5, and Special Education grades K-12.  She began teaching in August of 2009 at Muhlenberg North Middle School where she teaches today. In her  seventh year of teaching, she was honored as Kentucky’s Special Education Teacher of the Year. 

Each year, the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and Kentucky Department of Education  (KDE) come together to present the Special Education Teacher of the Year Awards. 

Applicants for the award have to be nominated by their district director of special education before the CEC  and KDE staff score applications based on rubric criteria, and the applicants with the top three highest  scores are selected as finalists. CEC and KDE staff then conduct onsite visit assessments at the teachers’ schools and select the final winner. 

The Kentucky Special Education Teacher of the Year receives a $500 monetary award and a gift basket. 

“Being selected has been such a tremendous honor,” said Teague. “When my Special Education Director,  Julie Pendley, informed me that she wanted to nominate me, I was deeply touched and also very humbled. Although my name is on this award, it would never have been possible without the support from my  administrators, the exceptional teachers I have the honor to work alongside, and the students who teach me  so much about overcoming obstacles to success.” 

For Teague, every day provides new challenges. She has good days and bad days, and not all of her  strategies result in success. Her students and the relationships she develops with each of them are what drive  her to be an exceptional teacher. 

“Every student deserves my best. If I am unable to motivate my students to learn and give 100 percent, the  best and most proven research based strategies would fail. My greatest gift to my students will always be  the understanding of who they are and what they need. When a student has a bad night, I know. If one of  them is hungry, I know. Developing those relationships is also what keeps me, the teacher, motivated as  well,” said Teague. 

At a special education conference in Louisville, Kentucky, Teague encountered yet another piece of  motivation for the great things she does as a teacher. Ray Chumbler, who was in attendance at the 

conference accepting a service award, talked in his acceptance speech about eradicating the stigma of  Autism.  

He conveyed his gratitude for his support system and discussed his struggles in school with forming  relationships with peers. He described how he finally began to understand the need to connect and make  lasting friendships with the help of a mentor who helped him recognize social norms while attending  Murray State University. 

“Coincidentally, I had recently been discussing the possibility of creating a scholarship for students with  disabilities with a former student's mother, and I had mentioned the idea to my Special Education Director.  So, it was extremely fortuitous to hear Ray's story,” said Teague. “It has since become a great passion of  mine to help promote his cause through the scholarship he has created.” 

When Teague is asked where she received her education, she proudly tells everyone she attended Murray  State University. While working toward her degree, her instructors were also teaching in local elementary,  middle and high schools. “I cannot place a value upon the depth of knowledge they shared with me from  simply living the life of a teacher themselves, and at the very same time, helping me acquire the skills I  needed to become a teacher,” said Teague. 

“I would also like to thank Dr. Susan Edington for being such a wonderful encourager, mentor, and one of  the greatest educators I have ever met. Her example has always motivated me to work hard and believe  every child can learn. I received such a wonderful education through Murray State University, and I am so  proud to be a Racer!”

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