Local teachers chosen as Kentucky Teacher Fellows

Monday, June 17th, 2013
The Ledger Independent

Two local teachers have been chosen as Kentucky Teacher Fellows for the Hope Street Group.

The Kentucky Teacher Fellows is a group of teachers from Kentucky who voice opinions on reform efforts across the state.  The teachers will work to improve education methods.

“Announcement of the Kentucky Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows is a tremendous step toward our common commitment to engaging teachers at every level,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “This collaborative program will support and reinforce our strategic work around educator effectiveness with the ultimate goal of ensuring all Kentucky students graduate from high school college/career-ready.”

The group will focus on teaching methods within the classroom, as well as serving as a voice for teachers with lawmakers, according to Hope Street Group spokesperson Courtney Haynes.

According to Haynes, the organization is highly selective and only 21 teachers were chosen.  Among those teachers are Christine Holajter, a kindergarten through second grade music teacher at Straub Elementary School in Mason County, and Melissa Plank, a ninth grade math teacher at Fleming County High School.

Plank said this is the first year Kentucky has had a group of teacher fellows.

“There is a national group, but this is the first year Kentucky has had one of their own,” she said.

Plank said when she found out there would be a Kentucky group, she applied to be on it.

“I sent in my application with letters of recommendation and the different organizations I have been a part of and they called me to do an interview and followed up on what I put in my application,” she said.

Plank said she has taught at FCHS for four years.  In addition to teaching, she has also worked with the integration grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kentucky Educational Television and Kentucky Department of Education on the peer observation module.

“I’m very involved in different educational activities,” she said.  “So, I was excited when I found out I was chosen, because we now have someone from Fleming County who has a voice about what is not only going into the classroom, but coming out of it.  I’m very honored for this opportunity.”

Fleming County Superintendent Tom Price said he is happy about a Fleming County teacher being chosen for the group.

“It’s a very prestigious organization,” Price said.  “It’s a rare honor to be named to such a group.  It’s an honor to have a teacher on staff at Fleming County, who is a part of this group.  (Plank) is a fantastic teacher and she will accomplish great things.”

Mason County Interim Superintendent Donald Pace expressed similar sentiments about Holajter being chosen.

“I’m elated to see we have someone getting recognized for the wonderful job they are doing,” Pace said.  “(Holajter) is a quality individual and an outstanding music teacher. She does a lot of volunteer work, and she has over 20 students in her private music lessons, while also being a mother to three children.”

Holajter said she is excited to begin her time on the group.

“I’m incredibly excited,” she said.  “It’s a fabulous program and I can’t wait to get started.”

Holajter said in addition to teaching music, some of her other work includes sitting as secretary for the Straub Site-Based Council, creating professional development for the Arts and Humanities program for Straub, and community outreach.

“I believe I am the only arts and humanities teacher chosen,” she said.  “That means a lot, because I will be able to spread Mason County’s strong support of arts and humanities around the state.”

Plank and Holajter said they will be in Louisville throughout the week for training.

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