This is the moment Fayette County has been waiting for, after many intense hours of reading and scoring 24 applications of Fayette County’s top teachers, the judges have named three teachers the 2021 Teacher of the Year finalists.
The finalists for the 2021 Teacher of the Year honor are Kristin Rabun, Fayette County High School; Jennifer Grossbohlin, Whitewater High School; and Emily Hodge, McIntosh High School.
In Kristin Rabun’s classroom, she creates a space where the worth of her students is acknowledged for much more than their numerical performance of an assignment.
Rabun, a 17-year English teacher at Fayette County High School, asks herself a list of very important questions for each new year, each new unit, and each new lesson; Why? Who? What if? and Why not?
The answers to these four simple questions remind her that, “Every year is a fresh start with endless possibilities for becoming more creative and responsive to the needs of my students.”
Diversity and culturally responsive teaching are major focuses in Rabun’s classroom. She ensures that the books, poems, and stories that are introduced to her students connect to a world outside of school.
“I recognize that I cannot reach my students if I can only see through the lens of my own experiences, preferences, and viewpoint.”
Step into her class on any given Wednesday and you’ll find Rabun’s students participating in a Community Circle; this is a space where students are actively engaged in focused conversations that help them bond with one another and with her.
From personal experiences to academic successes, Rabun believes these open dialogue conversations, ”… have helped the students feel that the classroom is a place that is more relevant to their lives, and students have even felt confident enough to initiate a Community Circle when they had a concern or especially a celebration, like a college acceptance or the birth of a sibling.”
With a commitment to student success and a heart for seeing students beyond their grades, Rabun stands firm on her belief that, “Education transcends the classroom when students are empowered to become active participants in the world where learning and ideas become tangible and young people embrace their civic responsibility.”
McIntosh High School’s Emily Hodge enjoys creating a media center where the school community can experience a sense of ease and acceptance.
As a media specialist, Hodge has the privilege of being an active listening ear for teachers and students.
“The vision of the media program is to improve the quality of life for each patron who walks through the media center doors…I carefully listen and make an effort to meet the needs of each individual.”
Hodge discovered that many high school students no longer read for pleasure so she created Speed Dating with Books to get students excited about reading. During the lesson, tables are decorated with red tablecloths and red carnations and students rotate from book to book in true speed dating fashion in order to familiarize themselves with many books in a short period time of time.
“I believe that atmosphere plays a vital role in making students feel welcome and excited about learning.”
With five years at McIntosh High and 16 years in education, Hodge believes in the power of lifelong learning to improve one’s self and one’s understanding of others and the world.
Relationships are the foundation in which Jennifer Grossbohlin’s classroom is built on.
At the beginning of the school year, the 15-year social studies teacher at Whitewater High tells her students that she wants to see them succeed, and will do her best to help them achieve their academic goals.
“…because of our relationship, they see how hard I am working for them that they are willing to work equally as hard for me.”
Grossbohlin understands that allowing students to make real world connections to the past helps to make class activities more relevant and impactful.
One of those classroom activities include the Enlightenment Salon reenactment where students are assigned a historical figure and are asked to not only research the individual, but take on their persona and engage with other students as that person.
“I enjoy watching my students display their creativity…This lesson is one that students of mine still talk about years later.”
Fifteen years and hundreds of students later, Grossbohlin continues to strive to provide her students with a space where they feel seen, heard, and respected.
Each finalist will be observed in their classrooms and interviewed by the judging panel, which consist of two retired educators and last year’s county winner, Christina Rufenacht of Flat Rock Middle. The teacher with the highest combined judges’ score will be named the 2021 Fayette County Teacher of the Year.
The winner will be announced at the annual Fayette County Teacher of the Year celebration on April 15.