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Two NKY Educators Finalists for Ky. Special Ed. Teacher of the Year

Two Northern Kentucky educators are finalists for the Kentucky Education Department's (KDE) 2021 Special Education Teacher of the Year award, which is sponsored by KDE's Office of Special Education and Early Learning, and the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children (KYCEC).

Jennifer Packwood is a teacher at Newport High School, and Christy Pellerin is a teacher at Hillard Collins Elementary School in Florence.

The third finalist is Stacie Hutchison from Glasgow Independent.

The award is a way to recognize and honor an outstanding teacher in the field of special education, an announcement said.

Pellerin teaches students with muscular dystrophy, functional mental disabilities, other health impairments, visual impairments, hearing impairments, K-3 primary and K-5 for students with autism. She is an active member of the National Education Association and Kentucky Education Association.

“The relationships I have built with my students and their families are priceless to me. I have worked with hundreds of students over my 30-plus years, every one of them holds a special place in my heart,” Pellerin said.

“When I was learning and studying to be a special education teacher, I used to say I would feel successful if I made a connection and helped at least one child be their best self. When I reflect over the years, I feel I have met that goal many times over and enjoy the updates from former students and families. I have accomplished what I set out to do, in the place I was called to be, to help others live their best life with joy and purpose.”

Packwood has taught grades 9-12 for students with learning and behavior disorders and emotional behavior disorders since 2012. She also served as a mental health counselor in a school-based day treatment program for special education students in the Kenton County School District for 10 years. Since 2020, she has served as a teacher representative on Newport High School’s site-based decision making council.

“As a high school special education teacher, my greatest accomplishment is witnessing and assisting my students to reach their greatest accomplishment. The surface-level goal is, of course, graduation, but there is a broader accomplishment that I get to see each year in May with each new graduating class -- and that is the maturity, confidence, independence and determination that I have seen my students develop over their four years in high school,” Packwood said.

“I love watching as they come in as 14-year-old freshmen, unsure of themselves, maybe lacking focus, confused on how they will ever pass their classes, to when they become 18-year-old seniors, who have worked hard, gained new knowledge and skills, and feel more confident in their abilities.”

Nominees submitted an application with three letters of recommendation, including one from their principal or supervisor and one from their district DoSE. Finalists also were required to submit a short video.

Each finalist will be awarded a one-year KYCEC membership and a cash prize of $250 from the KYCEC and the Kentucky Council for Administrators of Special Education (KYCASE).

The Special Education Teacher of the Year will receive $500 from the KYCEC and KYCASE, along with a scholarship to attend the Special Education Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

The winner will be announced at the annual KYCEC conference, which will be held Nov. 21-23 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville.

-Staff report

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