The two Teacher of the Year Award recipients were recognized at the May Hancock County Board of Education Meeting. They were Laura Hagedorn, 7th Grade Science Teacher at Hancock County Middle School, and Betty Jane Mitchell, K-1 Teacher at South Hancock Elementary.
Campbellsville University (CU) started the program to help districts honor their teachers several years ago and earlier in May Laura and Betty Jane went to CU to receive their certificates for Teacher of the Year. Then, at last week’s school board meeting, they received their plaques. “These are two phenomenal teachers in the district,” Superintendent Robby Asberry said. “We appreciate all you do. Thank you.”
SHES Principal, Jennifer Howe said in congratulations to Betty Jane:
“Ms. Mitchell had over 70 visitors in her classroom from around the state of KY this year, just to come and watch her instruction in the classroom. We’ve also had other teachers that’ve come through and done walk-throughs in her room.
Our job is education and achievement, and to make sure that our students are growing, but our job is also people, our students, and that’s what she puts first every single day. You see it in her classroom. When you walk in and you see little 6-year-olds loving what they do; they’re so engaged. I just want to sit there and learn too, because she’s the teacher I wish I was and she’s one of the teachers I wish my kids had at some point. She is phenomenal. And, so we’re so glad we have her at South.”
HCMS Principal Tracy Sanders spoke at the meeting as well, congratulating Laura. “Laura’s just an awesome science teacher,” she said. “I taught science class myself for several years and I wish I’d been that good. I wasn’t. So, when I go in her class, I enjoy it. She does a lot of hands-on things, a lot of experiments with the students, and she just does a lot for the middle school. She jumps in and does all kinds of stuff for me too. She’s just a very important part of the middle school.”
The Hancock Clarion had an opportunity to interview Laura for this week’s edition.
She said she feels very honored to receive the award. “There are so many great teachers at the middle school,” she said. “I could go down the list of all the great teachers that I feel like maybe deserve it more than I do. I know I work hard, but I know that everybody that I work with does as well. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Principal Sanders is amazing, and Ms. Robin Poynter and Mr. Asberry have been great working with us.
We’ve worked real hard here the past 2 years trying to get a science curriculum. I did a lot of research on that, just to make it better for our kids to prepare them for the unknown world ahead of us. There are 5 of us teachers who just went through STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) training. It’s been a 2-year program through Green River Regional Educational Cooperative. We’ve had a media specialist, a STEM teacher, myself and 2 math teachers.”
Laura will finish her Rank I STEM-CS on June 1st. “A former HCMS teacher got us involved in that, Dr. Dale Goatley,” she said. “We’re the first full cohort of 30 plus people that are finishing it up. They provided, hands-down, the most beneficial professional development that I’ve been to.”
She began her studies to become a teacher by taking college classes in the dual credit program through CU while attending high school in her hometown in Greensburg, KY. She earned her Bachelor’s in Grades 5-9 Math & Science at Lindsey Wilson College, and her Master’s in Teacher Leadership through University of Cumberland.
Laura encourages her students to ask lots of questions and be critical thinkers. “We have all of the information in front of us now with technology,” she said. “Science isn’t about memorization as much as it is making sense of what the information is providing us, so we can make decisions and be better problem solvers.
Our kids, they come in and say, ‘I’m not good at science.’ And, I say, ‘That’s o.k. If you’re here, we’re going to get you a little bit better, because even if you’re not going to be scientists, you’re going to be homeowners and sometimes you’re going to be plumbers and all that involves science whether you realize it or not.’ The push is to encourage them to be critical thinkers and big sense-makers, so they can say, ‘O.k. I can look at this information, but what can I do with the information?’
We usually start all of our units with a big driving question.
One that we focused on this year, the kids called her ‘The Sick Chick,’ but we were trying to figure out why this (fictional) girl was feeling tired. It was our metabolism unit and they had all this information about her and they actually started to ask questions, and that drove our investigation of what to look at next.
They ended up diagnosing her with diabetes. Of course, it was fictional, but realistic. That helped them become more engaged and let them actually be a part of it. That’s like the Tomato-sphere Project we did for them to actually get to contribute to a study with the International Space Station and NASA. They were putting in real data. They weren’t playing scientists; they were being scientists.”
Laura said this last school year they implemented a program called Amplify. “The kids learn to struggle and the struggle is o.k. If we weren’t struggling, then we weren’t learning,” she said. “And, of course, we don’t make them struggle too much, because that just creates burn out. But, there has to be that rigor for them that pushes them ahead.”
Laura and her husband, Ray, will celebrate 9 years of marriage this August. They live in Gatchel, Indiana, and Ray’s parents have a dairy farm in the St. Marks area. They are blessed with a son, Grant, who is 4. He will start kindergarten at NHES in fall of 2024.
Ray is a Master Technician for John Deere, and works out of Ireland, Indiana as a full-time Road Technician, mostly on planters and combines. He and Laura started a metal business in 2018, R & L Metal Works. They make signs and also fabricate parts for farming equipment.
By Jennifer Wimmer