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Hancock County; Teacher of the Year award recipients


Betty Jane Mitchell, Primary Teacher at SHES, with her husband, Matt, and son, Milo

Betty Jane Mitchell, Primary Teacher at South Hancock Elementary, is one of the (2) Teacher of the Year Award recipients. She’s been teaching at SHES for 9 years. “I was extremely honored to get this award,” she said. “I was not expecting it at all.”

She said she knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a teacher and has always thought teaching is very important. “It wasn’t until I had my son that I truly realized how important it is to be a teacher,” she said, “because I started to understand what an honor and responsibility it is that people entrust you with their kids to care for them and to also educate them.

My son, Milo, is almost 2. These last couple of years I’ve really fallen in love with teaching in a different way, because I know what it’s like now to have a child and to entrust other people to take care of that child for you, when you can’t be there.”

Betty Jane’s mom, Lisha Williamson, Math Interventionist at SHES, encouraged her to apply when there was an opening. “It was such a unique experience to get to go back to where I went to school,” she said, “and become a teacher there, especially since there were some teachers that I had as a student that were still working there, and so I got to have that experience of going from being their student to being their colleague. I loved them when I was a kid, so it was really cool to get to learn from them as a fellow teacher.

South has so many amazing teachers. I love getting to work and collaborate with them. It’s just a really unique school. It’s very small. I think that’s one of its charms, because you feel like you know almost all of the students, if not all of them.

We get to work more as a whole primary team, because there aren’t as many of us, which helps give a better perspective of the grade level before and after. It’s different than anywhere else, because of the relationships and how much of a family that it feels like. My sister, Tabitha Lucas, is also a teacher at South. She’s been a Gap Coordinator for the last 2 years.”

She said South has done a great job helping them further their education in order to become better teachers. “They have paid for me to go through ADMR Training, which has completely transformed how I teach math. The district has also paid for us to go through LETRS,” she said, “and that has completely changed how I teach reading. They paid for all of the primary teachers to go through IMSE (Institute for Multi-Sensory Education) Orton-Gillingham, and it is one of the best programs in the country right now for teaching phonics and reading, especially to younger students.”

Betty Jane earned her Bachelor’s in Sociology at Western Kentucky University, with a minor in Social Work, and her Master’s in Elementary Education at University of Louisville. She and her husband, Matt, live in Owensboro and have been together for 13 years. They will be celebrating their 4th Wedding Anniversary on June 8th. Matt is a Registered Nurse at Owensboro Regional Health Hospital. Their son, Milo, will be 2-years-old in September.

Laura Hagedorn, 7th Grade Science Teacher at HCMS, with husband, Ray, and their son, Grant.


Laura Hagedorn, 7th Grade Science Teacher at Hancock County Middle School, said she feels very honored to receive one of the (2) Teacher of the Year Awards. “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 completed 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 completed it. 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. 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.”

She 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


1 Comment

  1. Aiden Miller HCMS on June 8, 2023 at 8:18 am

    Congratulations Ms hagdorn I’ll see you in two months in 7th grade GO HORNETS!!!!

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