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Lisa Hawkins, the 2013 LaRue County ExCEL Award winner, was surprised, humbled and honored at being named this year’s recipient.
“There are so many other nominees and teachers in the system equally deserving of this,” she said.
She and the other finalists – Amy South (LaRue County High School), Joe Reed (LaRue County Middle School) and Renee Wright (Hodgenville Elementary School) – were honored Jan. 31 at a dinner at Paula’s Hot Biscuit. An Excel Award event will follow later this spring at ALES.
ExCEL, which stands for Excellence in Classroom and Educational Leadership, is sponsored by WHAS11 and LG&E KU. The award recognizes and rewards public school teachers.
Teaching is not a one-person undertaking for Hawkins, a veteran with 24 years’ experience. She noted that the most powerful and effective instructional programs have come through professional learning communities in which teachers no longer work in isolation clarifying what students must learn, but in collaborative teams-building shared knowledge and understanding about essential learning.
“When first grade teachers analyze scores of common assessments, they look at the first grade community: the entire first grade is the focus, not each teacher’s class,” Hawkins said. “The professional learning community is a focus on a commitment to the learning of every student.”
In such a system, she explained, every teacher has someone to turn to and talk to when confronted with the difficulties of teaching. Everyone has colleagues with whom and from whom they can learn. Everyone has teammates who are helping them achieve their goals. Every member is expected to contribute to the improvement of her team and school.
“I can’t say enough about my first-grade team,” she said. “We constantly are looking at student scores, assessing the best techniques we can use to plan the next steps in helping our students to be successful.”
Team members — Bethany Bowen, Carlene Gibson and Darcy Pruitt — and Hawkins share ideas and materials plus pool their individual strengths to provide the best instruction to meet the needs of their students.
“We’re on the right track in LaRue County Schools,” she said. “I’m so proud to be a part of the school system that has so many great things going on.”
Hawkins began her teaching career at Magnolia Elementary School where she stayed for three years before being named a Title I reading teacher and later, a primary unit teacher at Buffalo Elementary before moving to ALES.
She didn’t immediately prepare for the classroom, though, after graduating from LCHS in 1975.
“After high school, I married Glenn and we had two children,” Hawkins said.
Involved in various programs at Three Forks Bacon Creek Church in Hammonsville, she taught Bible and Sunday school to youths ranging from pre-school to high school age.
“One of the people helping me there mentioned that I should try teaching in the regular classroom and that sparked my motivation to enroll in Elizabethtown Community College in 1986,” she said.
She continued her education at Western Kentucky University where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education and a Rank I in guidance.
“Teaching has never been a job to me,” she said. “It has been and will always be my calling. I cannot imagine my life any other way.”
Hawkins and her husband Glenn have two children, Addie, a nurse at Hardin Memorial Hospital; and Steve, an attorney who lives with his wife Lisa, a chemical engineer, in Crestwood; and two grandchildren, Katherine and Victoria.
Previous Excel winners
2005 – Kathy Ross (Magnolia Elementary School); 2006 – Martha Page (HES); 2007 – Rex Hanson (LCHS); 2008 – Susan Phelps (ALES); 2009 – Peggy Newton (HES); 2010 – Bev Heady (ALES); 2011 – Summer Garris (LCHS); 2012 – Heather Sutherland (ALES).