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KDE, Valvoline name teachers of the year

Kentucky teachers of the year

Kentucky School Advocate
October 2022

Mandy Perez, a 6th-grade English and language arts teacher at Crittenden County Middle School, has been named the 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and is also the Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year.

“I certainly wasn’t prepared for that,” Perez said. “I recently watched a video from our superintendent on opening day that left me with an inspiring message that said there’s a difference between wanting to be the best in the world and being what’s best for the world. I know each of us wake up every day and we walk into our classrooms and do what’s best for our students.”

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and Valvoline, co-sponsors of the award, announced Perez’s selection Sept. 20. Hopkins County’s Kelly Gates was named the Elementary School Teacher of the Year and Woodford County’s Amber Sergent was named as the High School Teacher of the Year.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason Glass thanked Perez, Gates, Sergent and all the Commonwealth’s teachers for devoting their lives to educating students.

Perez has taught in Crittenden County Schools throughout her 18-year career. Growing up in Union County, she recalls asking teachers for extra worksheets at the end of the year to take home and teach her little sister.

Now, as the 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Perez hopes to instill a love of reading in students across the Commonwealth.

“I love what I do. I love kids and I love teaching,” she said. “Teaching is the best profession in the world and as teachers, you know that. It’s tough. There’s a lot of days you don’t know if you can go back in, but we do. And every single thing we do matters.

“I promise to be the best spokesperson and role model I can be as your 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.”

Gates is a 5th-grade teacher at Pride Elementary in Hopkins County. She has been teaching there her entire 26-year career.

Gates works to shape the lives of her students, not just academically, but as future citizens that will lead their communities. She encourages students to participate in service-minded activities such as leading the school’s gardening club, where students donate cultivated produce to local food banks.

“As an Elementary School Teacher of the Year, I hope to advocate for my students and public schools because schools are the backbones of our communities,” said Gates.

Sergent is an 11th- and 12th-grade social studies teacher at Woodford County High School.

Sergent is intentional with her students in preparing them for the world they will inherit after graduation. Sergent said she plans to ensure the stories of the staff who keep Kentucky’s schools running are told.

“My parents have taught of time and love,” Sergent said. “I know love. I know what it means. I know what it can do for a child. So when I walk into my room, no matter the content I teach, every child walks away knowing they are loved.”

Perez will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Photo: Amber Sergent, (left) a Woodford Co. High School teacher was named High School Teacher of the Year, Mandy Perez, (center) a Crittenden Co. Middle School teacher, was named Middle School Teacher of the Year and overall Kentucky Teacher of the Year and Kelly Gates, a Hopkins Co. teacher was named Elementary Teacher of the Year. (Provided by KDE)

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