Union announces Excellence in Education Awards winners

Published on
October 28, 2013

Union College recently presented Excellence in Education Awards to seven local professionals. The awards have recognized outstanding careers in Knox County since 2011.

Winners for this class include Brittney Smith of Knox County Middle School; Elizabeth (Jean) Bingham of Central Elementary; Krista Mills of Barbourville Independent School; Lee Edward Campbell of Knox Central High School; Paul Middleton of Barbourville Independent School; David Jackson of Knox Central High School; and Kay Dixon of Barbourville Independent School. Each recipient was chosen based on a strict set of criteria after finalists were selected from a large pool of nominees. Winners are active teachers and administrators who have made significant contributions to the teaching profession.

Smith, a special education teacher at Knox County Middle School, received the Dr. Mary Alice Lay Teacher Leader Award. She has served Knox Middle in many capacities, but her primary duty as a special education teacher is her greatest strength, according to the nomination form. She tutors students after hours and during summer break, and demonstrates a particular talent for tutoring students with dyslexia. Through her work, she has become the district’s expert in providing service to special education students.

Bingham received the Dr. Mary Alice Lay Teacher Leader Award as well. She is a mathematics intervention teacher at Central Elementary. According to the nomination form, she has a passion for improving mathematics education, which she has shared not only locally, but at state and national levels as well. She is the only Kentucky mathematics intervention teacher who is also a Math Recovery Leader, Math Recovery Add+Vantage Champion and Student Numeracy Assessment Progressions Facilitator. Within the classroom, Bingham is known for the dedication she shows to helping each and every student.

Mills, another recipient of the Dr. Mary Alice Lay Teacher Leader Award, is currently a second-grade teacher at Barbourville Independent School but has taught almost every grade at the primary level throughout her career. Part of her success stems from the ability she has to connect and educate students at any level. Mills, who believes that the key to student success lies within reaching out to students and their families, takes the time to know them all. Her compassion and ability to positively influence students is demonstrated through the account of a former student who said, “My favorite pastime as a child was to play school, and I was the teacher (Mills).” That student later became a teacher.

The final recipient of the Dr. Mary Alice Lay Teacher Leader Award is Campbell, choir and band director at Knox Central High School. Campbell, who demonstrates daily his compassion for teaching and his students, is also known for his leadership ability within the education community. Campbell is heavily involved with not only the Kentucky Education Association, but the National Education Association as well. He is also a representative with the Kentucky Teacher Effectiveness Steering Committee and its subcommittee for non-tested areas. Within the classroom, he works to instill a passion for music within each of his students, either through choir or band, and creates an atmosphere “full of hope and love and most importantly family,” said one student.

Middleton, a recipient of the Dr. Warren Robbins Educational Leadership Award, is the high school principal at Barbourville Independent School. According to the nomination form, he is well respected there, not only by the other personnel, but by the students as well. As principal, he is faced with many problems brought before him by students, and in each instance he shows genuine concern for the students involved. He is extremely dedicated to his role, and has been key in making Barbourville a school district of which the community is proud.

Jackson, the assistant principal at Knox Central High School, was another recipient of the Dr. Warren Robbins Educational Leadership Award. His unique leadership abilities include taking a genuine interest in all students, and doing what is in his power to make sure they are succeeding. He recognizes their individual achievements, and makes sure that the path to those achievements is as smooth as possible for each student. These traits have helped him as he has developed next-generation leaders at Knox County Middle School.

Dixon is a recipient of the Dr. Warren Robbins Educational Leadership Award as well. She is the instructional supervisor at Barbourville Independent School. Although Dixon has worked across the state and in various roles, the one constant throughout her career has been her students and the relationships she develops with them. Whatever she is doing, Dixon always performs at the highest level, and holds those she works with to those same standards. However, she will go out of the way to make sure they can do so, helping them along with whatever they may need. The dedication and hard work she shows every day has allowed countless Barbourville students to receive the highest level of education possible.

The Excellence in Education Awards recognize teachers and administrators who follow the examples set by the instructors for whom the awards are named. Union College distinguished professors Dr. Warren Robbins and Dr. Mary Alice Lay are both iconic in representing Union’s legacy of supporting educational excellence.

Robbins, who joined Union’s faculty in 1957, first served as a teacher, principal and a supervisor in the Bell County School System. From 1954-1957, he was supervisor in a Ford Foundation pilot program at Berea College to improve education in rural Kentucky. His first positions at Union included associate professor of education and director of student teachers. He later became department head, vice president of graduate affairs, professor of education, dean of graduate studies, and dean of faculty. Robbins retired from Union in 1990 from the position of dean of graduate studies program and then served as Professor Emeritus of education.

Lay came to Union in 1961 as instructor of home economics after receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky. She continued her graduate studies through a National Science Fellowship in Nutrition at the University of South Dakota and through travel study in Europe via Indiana State University. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1969, the same year she was granted tenure. From 1978-1983 she stepped aside from her faculty duties to become Union’s director of alumni affairs. During this time, she completed another graduate program, receiving her Rank I certificate from Union in 1980. She returned to the faculty ranks and has served as associate professor of education from 1985 to the present.

The 2013 pool included more than 30 nominations. Each nominee must have completed a minimum of five full years of teaching experience and be currently serving in a school or an administrative position.

Fellow educators, students, parents and community members issued nominations, which were not limited to Union College alumni; however Union College is proud to note each honoree is among its graduates. A committee composed of impartial educators and community members from the region and beyond made up the selection committee.