Ms. Martha Elizabeth “Beth” Randolph

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Ms. Martha Elizabeth “Beth” Randolph

Today, I can proudly say that I am a fourth generation Kentucky educator.  Forty years ago, no amount of convincing would have ever made me believe that those words would come from my mouth, much less my heart.

My paternal grandmother began her teaching career in her early twenties in a one-room schoolhouse in rural, Ballard County Kentucky.  She taught the lower grades and her older sister the upper grades.  Together, they started the first hot lunch program in the county.  They served not only food, but reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies, science, and a love of learning.  She was known all over the county as "Miss Mia" and just about everyone we met on our daily jaunts each summer I visited was either "one of her boys" or "one of her girls".  Her voice would swell with pride as she relayed stories of her teaching and memories of her father's teaching.  I loved to hear her talk about those days because she was a good storyteller.  The real message of her teaching remembrances was her genuine dedication and affection for her students.  Thinking back now, I know I loved those stories mostly because I loved her so much, but this lesson of love for your students was learned by me, her granddaughter.

My grandmother's devotion to teaching filtered down to my father.  He taught for a brief time and then became a principal to better support his growing family of three children. Teachers were my cocoon for my mother was a teacher too.  Together, my parents made sure that all three of us had the best teachers and a solid academic foundation.  At Tates Creek Elementary School, Mrs. Oplas taught me early on dedication to studies is critical to learning, Mrs. Cochran gave me a confidence and love of math, while Mrs. Brookshire made sure I soared in reading, not talking, and all showed me that teachers who love their students make the biggest impressions and impact.  Those same lessons continued at Morton Junior High School, and Henry Clay High School.

As the years passed, my brothers and I were busy being good Fayette County Public School students because our parents had resolutely planted the idea that a good education is the key to success.  In the summer, I often went to school with my father to help him with odd jobs.  Counting and sorting textbooks, packing boxes, working on yearbooks, and moving furniture were just some of the tasks I did.  Of course, frequently I would also sneak off to play in the gym or look at books in the library.  School was home.  It was a comfortable, best friend where I was safe, secure, and happy.

When it came time for me to go to college, both my parents thought I was a natural teacher.  My background seemed to point in that direction and the jobs I'd taken in high school as babysitter, swim instructor, and lifeguard, seemed to be leading me there as well.  Money was more on my mind and loving math; I thought accounting would be the perfect career for me. My father would encouragingly say, "Just go across the street from the business school to the Taylor Education building and take one education course and see if you don't like it."

I would reply, "NO, I will NEVER be a teacher!" Four years at the University of Kentucky went by quickly and I had that diploma with "Bachelor of Science in Accounting" printed firmly underneath my name.  An accounting job did not come by fall and my father sneakily demanded I get a better paying job than the security officer position I held at Kentucky Education Television (aka KET).  So, off to the Fayette County Board of Education I went and back I came with the position as Chapter I Math tutor at Cardinal Valley Elementary School assisting third through sixth graders struggling in math.  Within days, I knew I'd found my niche.  Why wouldn't I feel this way when Keith finally grasped the purpose for multiplication and Stacey understood rounding, even if she did misunderstand my name to be Miss Roundoff.  I guess it was a twist of fate that an accounting job was offered within two weeks of starting the tutoring.  Reluctant to quit tutoring, but knowing I needed to try accounting, I took the tax preparer job.  Luckily, it didn't take long behind that desk in the C.P.A.'s office for me to know that I was an educator, not an accountant.  I ate some crow with my parents and started back to school that next fall majoring in elementary education.  After sitting through my first education class, I knew I was where I belonged.

To sum up my journey into teaching, there were three factors unwittingly driving me into this profession.  First of all, my family heritage of teachers made me comfortable and familiar with the job and its expectations.  Teaching was the talk I heard and the work I knew.  Second, I loved school and everything that school entailed. Both my parents and teachers had made me understand the importance of learning and given me the desire to achieve to my potential. Lastly, my teaching experiences, though limited, had been successful ones.  Whether in the pool or math classroom, I had been able to assist children and adults in learning new skills, concepts, and knowledge and it was fun.

These three factors molded an educator who had an urgent passion for her job.  This passion translated into what I saw as my greatest contribution to the education of my students.  As a teacher, I instilled a zeal and thirst for knowledge and action. In simple terms, I was a motivator, an Anthony Robbins of the classroom. Without motivation, students will not reach their potential; with it, the sky is the limit.

My ability to motivate students brought about my greatest accomplishments in the classroom, whether it was my first year at Harrison Elementary School teaching fifth and sixth graders, or in my twenty-two years in the self-contained fifth grade classroom at The School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Bluegrass or more commonly known as SCAPA.  The first step I was proud to witness annually was that students made tremendous progress and improvement in their work and study habits.  Their grades consistently improved with each passing quarter.  The students become much more engaged and excited with their work as the year advanced because I strove to make the curriculum interesting and fun to explore.  Time and time again, when April arrived, my classes scored extremely well on the state tests. I've watched reluctant students go from passive to actively engaged, on-fire learners.  One small spark of success can become a forest fire and that is what we want from all of our students.  Motivation is that first spark.

One of the forest fires at our school is our speech team and I am proud to have been its coach for sixteen years.  SCAPA has been crowned the state champions for twenty consecutive years, an extraordinary accomplishment, and I was a co-coach with Debbi Dean who got that remarkable tradition started.  Over those years, we have produced numerous individual state champions.  Our team has attended the national tournament three times and twelve individuals have come away national champions.  Obviously, these are some of my greatest accomplishments as an educator, which have come outside of my classroom.Â

Seven years ago, I moved out of the classroom and into the principal's office at SCAPA, my school home for the last 29 years.  Although quite an adjustment for me, I now try my hand at motivating and leading this remarkable school to new accomplishments.  In 2011, our school was thrilled to win the Governor's Education Award for the Arts, the Commonwealth's highest honor in the arts. That excitement intensified even more when SCAPA was awarded the 2015 United States Education Department Blue Ribbon Award, the nation's honor affirming students, educators, families, and communities creating safe and welcoming schools where students excel at mastering rigorous content. Along with these awards, SCAPA's vision for its future includes a quest to expand our school to a K-12 performing arts school with a state-of-the-art performance facility of our own while at the same time continuing to raise our performance levels academically and artistically.  The challenges have been inspiring and I look forward to the new heights our school will reach in the upcoming years. Motivation catches quickly, just like fire when the conditions are right.  It is my job now as principal to make those conditions perfect for the spark to light throughout the school.

The lessons I learned from all the teachers in my life made me who I am.  Their influence continues to make its mark on me and I hope I can continue to make mine with SCAPA students, staff, and school community.