Stonewall's Piercey is Kentucky's 2021 Teacher of the Year; Lafayette's McCurry the High School Teacher of the Year
Stonewall Elementary’s Donnie Piercey is Kentucky’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, and Lafayette’s Christopher McCurry is the state’s High School Teacher of the Year. Fayette County Public Schools thus boasted two of the three finalists for the overall award, presented live online Oct. 22 by the Kentucky Department of Education and Valvoline Inc.
“I’m never someone who cries. Now I’ve got tears here,” Piercey said from his home during the virtual presentation. “I don’t know what to say. My kids are cheering for me downstairs right now.” Piercey credited his many mentors in 14 years as a teacher and thanked any of his Stonewall students who might be watching. “I’m sorry I’m not there right now. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow on Zoom,” he said. McCurry was also overwhelmed. “I’m humbled to be selected and was inspired by all my peers throughout this process,” he said, adding, “The students challenge me every day and push me to be a better teacher.”
KDE and sponsor Valvoline tapped nine outstanding educators from across the state as semifinalists, and judges considered a classroom lesson review and interviews with the contenders in the elementary, middle, and high school divisions. Piercey, the Elementary Teacher of the Year, received the highest cumulative score and now advances to represent Kentucky in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Piercey teaches fifth grade English, social studies, math, and science, and serves as the school technology coordinator and STLP coach at Stonewall, where he is in his third year. His motto is “Equity every day -- every student and every lesson.” He previously taught seven years at Simmons Elementary in Woodford County and four years at Eminence Elementary School in Henry County. A Massachusetts native, Piercey earned a B.A. in theology from Asbury College and a master’s in Elementary Education from Auburn University at Montgomery. He is a Google for Education certified innovator and trainer, a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and Educator, and a lead for the Google Earth Education Experts in North America. At Stonewall, Piercey always tries to find innovative ways to incorporate technology across the curriculum in order to increase student learning and engagement. See what his students are up to by visiting his classroom website.
Now in his 10th year at Lafayette, McCurry teaches Dual Credit 101 and 102, Sophomore English, and Advanced African American Literature. “My approach to my students is that they are people first, students second. I believe that they all want to learn,” he said. McCurry, a poet, studied at the University of Kentucky and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont.
KDE received more than 2,500 nominations this year. In mid-summer, judges selected 24 educators as 2021 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award winners. Applications included nominees’ teaching philosophies, teaching experiences, involvement in their respective communities, and letters of recommendation. The group was culled to nine semifinalists, and the top recipient came from the three division winners. As overall winner, Piercey will get a $10,000 cash award, and McCurry a $3,000 prize. Piercey also will receive an ambassadorship or equivalent resources for his classroom and will serve as an ambassador for GoTeachKY, a KDE initiative to recruit the next generation of talented teachers.
This is the 20th year that Valvoline, which is headquartered in Lexington, has partnered with KDE to honor Kentucky educators.
(Posted Oct. 22, 2020)