Here in Kentucky, we don't always get the best reputation for our educational system. A lot of persistent (and pernicious!) stereotypes about our collective intellect and education. Now, I personally grew up in a family of educators, and I can tell you so many stories about the amazing job that Kentucky teachers undertake. So many teachers I know freely spend their own time and money to fill in the gaps that public school funding may have missed. It's impossible to individually thank all the teachers who've worked to improve the quality of education in Kentucky, but here are a few of the most unique stories.
The First School House in Kentucky was built in 1783, near the site of the present-day Old Fayette County Courthouse. The school's teacher, the story goes, was attacked by a wildcat.
The Science Hill School was founded in 1825 by Julia Tevis, the wife of a Methodist minister. When Julia and her husband John were transferred from their Virginia home to a Louisville parish, they settled in nearby Shelbyville, where Julia worked on her vision of a boarding school for local girls. Science Hill was so named because the curriculum was far more intensive than the traditional finishing schools of the time, and because the campus sat upon a hill.
The Hindman Settlement School was founded in 1902 by May Stone and Katherine Pettit; it was the first rural settlement school in America. The school's principal during the 1940s, Fred Williams, was a Methodist missionary who'd spent time working to abolish the caste system in India; he considered Mahatma Ghandi an ally and personal friend.
Rowan County teacher and School Superintendent Cora Wilson Stewart was a pioneer of Adult Literacy Education. In 1911, she instituted a program known as "Moonlight Schools" in Rowan County; the schools were open in the evenings for adults who wanted to learn basic skills, especially reading. The movement soon spread throughout the Commonwealth and into other states. Mrs. Wilson soon published a local newspaper and reader to address the vocabulary that everyday adults would need to learn. You can learn more about Mrs. Wilson in Yvonne Honeycutt Baldwin's biography. It seems that, in addition to being a maverick in her professional life, Mrs. Wilson led an interesting personal life -- she was thrice-married, twice to the same gentleman!
Greenup County native Jesse Stuart is perhaps the most celebrated of all Kentucky educators; his book of poetry, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow, remained continuously in print for over 50 years, and his autobiographical novel The Thread that Runs So True is considered the definitive source of the teaching profession in 20th century Kentucky. Lest y'all think that the late Kentucky Poet Laureate was one-dimensional, we have it on good authority from our friends at Kentucky from Kentucky that "the Stuart family—male and female alike—was known as one of the toughest in the holler, and Jesse described himself as a 'first-class fighting man.'"
Here's to all the fascinating, colorful, brilliant and brave teachers who make Kentucky an infinitely better place! Thank y'all so very, very much!!