Past Award Winners

2024 Teacher Achievement Award Winners

Published: 4/17/2024 3:23 PM


The Kentucky Department of Education announced the winner of the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year award in a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda on Sept. 13. Kumar Rashad, left, a mathematics teacher at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School (Jefferson County) was named the 2024 High School Teacher of the Year, Kevin Daily, center, a U.S. history a teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County), was named as the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year. Donnie Wilkerson, right, a 5th-grade social studies teacher at Jamestown Elementary (Russell County), was named the 2024 Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) announced the selection of 22 outstanding Kentucky educators as recipients of the 2024 Kentucky Teacher Achievement Awards on July 5. Kevin Dailey, a U.S. history teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County), was named the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year on Sept. 13. Donnie Wilkerson, a 5th-grade social studies teacher at Jamestown Elementary (Russell County), was named the 2024 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Kumar Rashad, a mathematics teacher at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School (Jefferson County), was named the 2024 High School Teacher of the Year.

The names, photos and short biographies of each award winner are listed below.​

​​​Elementary School Teacher Achievement Award Winners

Elementary Teacher Brewer Rebecca​​​​​​​

Amber Dwyer, Alvaton Elementary School (Warren County)​

​Amber Dwyer is a 3rd-grade teacher at Alvaton Elementary School. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Western Kentucky University. 

Dwyer dreamed of becoming an elementary teacher since her first day of kindergarten. Her passion for learning and her dream of teaching never wavered. In 2003, Dwyer became the first member of her family to graduate from college. She currently serves as a sponsor of Alvaton Elementary’s BETA club, Academic Team and Leading Ladies Club. Dwyer also serves as a new teacher mentor, a 3rd-grade team leader and is a member of the Alvaton Elementary Advisory Council.​

 Elementary Teacher Buchanon Ashley

Katie Hale, Ponderosa Elementary School (Boyd County)​

Katie Hale is a 3rd-grade teacher in the Boyd County Public School District. She has spent five of her 12 years in the district, teaching at Ponderosa Elementary School for the past 5 years. As an educator, Hale’s passion is helping students become proactive about their own educational journey. 

Hale graduated from Morehead State University with a bachelor’s in elementary education K-5 and has a master’s in teacher leadership K-12 from the University of the Cumberlands. She is currently in the process of obtaining her National Board certification as a middle childhood generalist. Hale serves as a teacher leader, representing her school as a District Leadership Team member, collaborating to align tier 1 instruction. She also is a mentor teacher to first-year educators, helping build authentic relationships and engaging curriculum. She is also a digital learning coach.

Elementary Teacher Deanna Landrum

Deanna Landrum, Southgate Public School (Southgate Independent)​

​Deanna Landrum is the K-8 library media specialist and Google support specialist

at Southgate Public School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in teaching with certification in middle grades social studies from Northern Kentucky University. She also has a master’s degree in libraries, informatics and technology in education from Western Kentucky University. 

Landrum received the Staff Member of the Month Award from Southgate in May 2022. She also applied on behalf of the school for the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education Outreach Grant to expand technology curriculum in the district, which the school received. For her service to the technology department during the pandemic, Landrum was a 2020-2022 Stilwell Award recipient.

Elementary Teacher Justin Moreschi

​Justin Moreschi, Klondike Lane Elementary (Jefferson County)​

​​Justin Moreschi, Ed.S., is an elementary science teacher from Louisville. He has been teaching in Jefferson County Public Schools since 2007. Moreschi serves as the 4th- and 5th-grade science teacher and gifted education co-lead for Klondike Lane Elementary. He earned his bachelor’s degree to teach gifted students from Bellarmine University, his master’s in education from Indiana University Southeast and his specialist in education degree in gifted education and talent development from Western Kentucky University. 

Moreschi believes the best way to ensure student success is through hands-on activities and learning experiences that bring the real world into the classroom. He serves his school and community by leading Klondike’s bluegrass music club, coaching the archery team, providing gifted services to kindergarten through 5th-grade students, and teaching K-3 science lessons during his planning time.

Elementary Teacher Brittany Ritter

Brittany Ritter, Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School (Jefferson County)

​Brittany Ritter, a kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School, currently teaches all core content subject areas: reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. She said she wants her students and families to feel that they are an irreplaceable part of her classroom family and empowered to reach individual goals. 

Ritter holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Georgetown College and a master’s in education from the University of the Cumberlands. She was awarded the Hilliard Lyons Excellence Award for Outstanding Teacher Performance and her school’s esteemed Sunshine Award, given to one educator each year who spreads joy to others. Ritter also holds leadership positions at her school, including serving numerous years as team leader for her kindergarten team and as co-chair of the school Social Committee and Fund For the Arts Fundraising Committee.

Elementary Teacher Donnie Wilkerson

​Donnie Wilkerson, Jamestown Elementary School (Russell County)​

Donnie Wilkerson is a 5th-grade history/social studies teacher at Jamestown Elementary School. A long-time civic leader, businessman and mayor, he came late to teaching. Wilkerson received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology from Western Kentucky University in 1977 and his master’s in teaching from Eastern Kentucky University in 2007. 

Wilkerson was the 2011 Gilder Lehrman/Kentucky Historical Society Teacher of the Year and in 2016, he received the Secretary of State Outstanding Civic Educator Award. In 2019, he received the Earle C. Clements Innovation in Education Award and in 2021, he was a semifinalist for Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

Elementary Teacher Sally Zaring

Sally Pollett Zaring, Painted Stone Elementary School (Shelby County)​

​Sally Pollett Zaring, a kindergarten teacher at Painted Stone Elementary School, has spent more than 20 years teaching in her hometown of Shelbyville. While earning degrees from the College of Charleston (bachelor’s degree in elementary education), Vanderbilt University (master’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in math) and the University of Louisville (rank I in instruction and administration), she has developed a passion for early numeracy and literacy. ​

Recently, Zaring has been a part of meaningful work with the Coalition to Sustain the Education Profession. She has developed many community partnerships to help pursue an agriculture-education focus for her school to make agricultural and environmental experiences available for her students, including building an outdoor classroom, vegetable garden, butterfly garden and apiary (beehive yard).

Middle School Teacher Achievement Award Winners

Middle School Teacher Kevin Dailey

​Kevin Dailey, Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County)​

As a child, Kevin Dailey had hopes of being an architect, not a teacher. He wanted to use his natural creativity and imagination to bring the abstract into reality and make the world a more beautiful place for everyone. This desire led him to pursue a career in architectural design. As it turns out, he was born to be a teacher. 

Dailey has taught high school and middle school social studies. Currently, he teaches U.S. history at Ballyshannon Middle School, where he helps students examine the complex history of our nation. He also serves as a leader within the school, district and state, guiding the implementation of standards-based learning, the development of rigorous common assessments, and the integration of social and emotional learning within our schools. Dailey also was the 2021 Milken Educator Award winner.

Middle School Teacher Doug Henry   

Doug Henry, Bullitt Lick Middle School (Bullitt County)​

Doug Henry is an 8th-grade social studies teacher at Bullitt Lick Middle School. His priority as an educator is to encourage students to question history. Henry holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State Polytechnic University Pomona, a master’s in political science from Stanford University and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix. 

Henry worked as the military commandant and JROTC instructor in Chicago Public Schools from 2005 to 2013. He moved back to Kentucky in 2013 and began teaching at Bullitt Lick Middle School, where he has taught 8th-grade social studies for the past 10 years. Henry has served in a myriad of leadership positions at all levels, including  serving as a cooperating teacher with the University of Louisville over the past 10 years, as an 8th-grade team leader and as a new teacher mentor.

​Abby Lee, LaRue County Middle School (LaRue County)

​​Abby Lee is an 8th-grade social studies teacher at LaRue County Middle School. Her priority as a teacher is to build and maintain positive relationships with students, families and colleagues in and out of the classroom. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and social studies from Western Kentucky University (WKU), a master’s in education teacher leader from Campbellsville University, and a master’s in libraries, informatics and technology in education from WKU. 

As a teacher representative, Lee was appointed to serve on the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative’s Deeper Learning/Local Laboratories of Learning Committee, Local Planning Committee and as a district-level digital coach. At her school, she serves on the school-based decision making council, as the social studies cadre leader and a new teacher mentor, in addition to sponsoring the Kentucky Youth Assembly. Lee has been the recipient of the LaRue County Excel Teacher of the Year and Campbellsville University Excellence in Teaching Award and was named as a WKU Distinguished Educator Middle School Finalist and Innovation nominee.

​Maegan Tepe, Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County)

Maegan Tepe is a veteran teacher of 13 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design from Murray State University and a master’s in teaching from the University of Louisville. She was awarded Bernheim Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2017 and the Heart of Bernheim Award in 2021.

After teaching 6th grade math for nine years at Bernheim Middle School in Bullitt County, she had the opportunity to step into a leadership role in 2019 as she served as the school's instructional coach. She held various leadership positions and facilitated professional learning in her building, district and beyond.

After relocating to Northern Kentucky in the summer of 2021, Tepe decided to return to the classroom and is in her second year of teaching math to 8th-grade students at Ballyshannon Middle School.

​Rebecca Clark Thayer, Beaumont Middle School (Fayette County)

Rebecca Thayer is a 6th-grade social studies teacher at Beaumont Middle School. She earned a bachelor's degree in education at the middle level from the University of Kentucky and a master's degree in school counseling and a rank I in education specialist, both from the University of the Cumberlands.

All of Thayer’s nine years of teaching have been within Fayette County at both Southern and Beaumont middle schools. She also has taken on the role of being a team leader, managing the speech and drama team, volunteering with Young Life and serving as a teacher mentor to several student teachers.

Middle School Teacher Kimberly Thompson

​Kimberly Thompson, Eastside Middle School (Bullitt County)

Kimberly Thompson has been a teacher librarian at Eastside Middle School for 19 years. She has dedicated herself to enriching the lives of her students by fostering their joy of reading. Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in library media science from Western Kentucky University. 

As a librarian, Thompson has created and maintained a strong reading culture in her school by curating a modern, high-interest collection for more than 650 students, devising and monitoring yearly schoolwide reading programs and staying abreast of children’s literary trends and authors. She has genre-ified the entire library for ease of use and to reflect student interests, established a faculty reading culture in the building that includes community and retired members, and has crafted a space that is welcoming to all who enter.

Middle School Teacher Brandi Violette

Brandi Violette, Olmstead Elementary School (Logan County)

​Brandi Violette is a middle school special education teacher at Olmstead Elementary School. She is dual certified in exceptional education, learning and behavior disorders, and moderate and severe disabilities. She holds a bachelor's degree in exceptional education from Western Kentucky University and a master's in education in administration from Campbellsville University. 

Violette started her career over 20 years ago and has served as team leader for both middle school and special education for 12 years. As a district teacher leader, she reviews compliance, mentors new special education teachers and leads professional development sessions. She also has been appointed to serve on the Kentucky Close the Gap team. She is a National Board Certified teacher in exceptional education, a certification renewed in 2022.                                                                             

High School Teacher Achievement Award Winners​

 High School Teacher ​​​

​Sara Beth Boggs, Frankfort High School (Frankfort Independent)​

Sara Beth Boggs teaches English and serves as an instructional coach at Frankfort High School. Boggs received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Ohio Northern University and a master’s in education as a teacher leader with a literacy specialist endorsement from Georgetown College. 

Boggs, part of a military family, has spent the last 22 years teaching English in classrooms across the country. At Frankfort High School, she serves as the PEP Club sponsor, 10th-grade class sponsor and Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle coach. She holds seats on the district Instructional Team, Intervention Team, UK Next Gen Profile of a Graduate Advisory Council, leads as a department chair and has represented her high school on a Superintendent Search Committee.

High School Teacher Eddie Groves

Ryan Davis, Waggener High School (Jefferson County)​

Ryan Davis is a teacher at Waggener High School. He has taught mathematics at multiple levels for 15 years in Jefferson County Public Schools and currently teaches geometry and personal finance. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Kentucky in mathematics and computer science and a master’s degree from the University of Louisville in teaching with an emphasis in secondary mathematics education. 

Davis is highly involved in the Jefferson County Teachers Association and has been elected to serve on its board of directors for several terms. Davis also serves on the board of directors for Evolve502.

High School Teacher Tina Henry

​Luke Glaser, Hazard High School (Hazard Independent)​

Luke Glaser teaches Advanced Placement (AP) calculus AB, AP calculus BC and precalculus at Hazard High School. He focuses on ensuring his students believe that they are the best, the brightest and the most competitive this country has to offer. Glaser has served as a Hazard city commissioner since 2018 and worked to modernize infrastructure and create one of the most comprehensive city internship programs in the state of Kentucky. 

Glaser received his bachelor’s in English and Hispanic studies from the University of Kentucky and his master’s in educational studies from Johns Hopkins University. In 2019, Glaser was selected for the inaugural Appalachian Leadership Institute through the Appalachian Regional Commission.

High School Teacher Victoryia Mohon

​Sara Peyton, Rowan County Senior High School (Rowan County)​

Sara Peyton is a history teacher at Rowan County Senior High School. She teaches 11th-grade American history, Advanced Placement U.S. history and a student leadership course for 9th-12th grade elected student government representatives. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees of education from the University of Kentucky. 

Peyton is passionate about helping her students become empathetic and caring citizens of their community. She believes that critical thinking, curiosity, questioning and learning to gather evidence are the most crucial skills students must learn. As a teacher representative, Peyton serves on the Professional Development and Planning Committee, is a member of the district’s Local Laboratory of Learning Coalition, and is a new teacher mentor. She has spent the past 5 years as a teacher leader with the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation’s ASPIRE program.

High School Teacher Lauren Niemann

​Kumar Rashad, Breckinridge Metropolitan High School (Jefferson County)​

Kumar Rashad has been a public high school math teacher for more than 18 years. He currently teaches math topics and a course entitled “Developing Black Historical Conscience” at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School, an alternative high school. Rashad earned a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics from Kentucky State University and a master’s in teaching in secondary mathematics education from the University of Louisville.

Rashad serves on his school district’s Advisory Council for Racial Equity, which is a district committee that reviews district policies under a racial justice lens. He also is the advisor to the Men of Quality Youth Mentoring Program for at-risk youth.

​Aretha Whaley, Casey County High School (Casey County)​

Aretha Whaley is a 10th-grade English teacher at Casey County High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Eastern Kentucky University, a master’s degree in education from University of Louisville and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in school leadership from Campbellsville University.

Whaley believes that reading is the gateway to all learning. She left her job in a bookstore to become a teacher so she could connect young people with books they would love. She started her career at Louisville Male Traditional High School and has spent the last five years teaching at Casey County High School. Whaley is a fellow of the Louisville Writing Project. In 2019, she won the Stephanie Kirk Classroom Learning Grant from the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English (KCTE). She is the vice-president, secondary section, on the KCTE board, serves as a new teacher mentor and leads professional development for fellow teachers to spread the love of books and writing.​​

High School Teacher Kimberly White        

Kimberly McClellan White, Muhlenberg County High School (Muhlenberg County)​

A 24-year teaching veteran, Kimberly White has spent two decades as an art and design instructor at Muhlenberg County High School. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Western Kentucky University, where she also participated in management training at Disney University. She also has written several art and technology grants for Muhlenberg County. 

In 2019, White received a 1st place National American Heritage Award for craft from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In addition, she received national attention when Scholastic Art and Writing presented her with two Teacher Gold Medals for mentoring students in the arts. White recently has worked as a mentor for Western Kentucky University's New Teacher Academy, mentoring future art educators. Her professional affiliations include the Muhlenberg County Education Association, National Education Associations, Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educators, Elizabeth Campbell Russell Chapter of Kentucky Daughters of the American Revolution and the Disney Alumni Association.


Samuel Whitehead, Rowan County Senior High School (Rowan County)​​

Samuel Whitehead teaches 12th-grade advanced math topics at Rowan County Senior High School. He also teaches dual credit math courses through Morehead State University (MSU). He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at MSU and a master’s in applied mathematics at Eastern Kentucky University. 

Whitehead currently serves as a chemical intelligence officer for the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the Kentucky Army National Guard. He was the first recipient of the Dr. Stephen Pruitt Innovative and Inspirational Educator of the Year in 2021. He also earned the LEX18 Extra Credit Award for Teacher of the Week in March of 2020. He currently serves on the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System Nomination Committee.


GlyptusAnn ​Jones
Office of the Commissioner
Division of Communications 
300 Sower Boulevard
(502) 564-2000 ext. 4616

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