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Beechwood, Boone Educators Win Teacher of the Year Honors

Kentucky's 2022 Elementary School Teacher of the Year and Middle School Teacher of the Year are educators from Northern Kentucky schools.

The Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Beechwood Elementary second-grade teacher Ashley Ritchie of the Beechwood Independent School District, and the Middle School Teacher of the Year is Hallie Booth, an eighth-grade teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School, part of Boone Co. Schools.

The following profiles of each teacher are produced by the Kentucky Department of Education:

Ashley Ritchie, Beechwood Elementary, 2022 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year

Written by Shelby Stills, and first published by Kentucky Teacher, a publication of KDE

2022 Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year Ashley Ritchie, a 2nd-grade teacher at Beechwood Elementary (Beechwood Independent), is dedicated to engaging her students and loves to make learning come to life with her classroom transformations.

Ritchie strives to provide fun ways to learn and shares her ideas with other teachers through professional development

Originally a pre-medicine major, Ritchie realized she had a passion for teaching when she spent time working with kids at a summer camp. She obtained her undergraduate degrees in sociology and elementary education from Hanover College in Indiana.

She became a teacher in her college town in 2004 and knew she was right where she needed to be–in the classroom.

While in the beginning of her teaching career, Ritchie obtained her master’s at Walden University in Minnesota. In 2007, she moved to Kentucky, where she taught in Campbell County Schools, then later moved to Beechwood Independent Schools.

“When writing lessons for my students, I seek to ‘set the stage to engage,’” Ritchie said. “I believe that creating unique learning experiences excites students and deepens student understanding of content.”

She uses room transformations to engage all students in the learning process, which involves transforming her classroom into something new and different that centers around the standards students are learning. She said this allows all students to be engaged.

Over the years, Ritchie has transformed her classroom into the Oregon trail, a bat cave, a football field, a mad scientist lab and a pirate ship.

“Working in a K-12 building in a smaller district is special because I get to watch my students grow up after they leave my classroom,” she said. “Hearing my students talk about my room transformations, years after they’ve left my classroom, makes me feel proud of the learning and experiences they were a part of in my room.”

Beechwood Elementary Principal Zach Ashley said Ritchie’s work ethic and genuine interest in the lives of students is unparalleled.

“She is truly a woman of integrity and character, and is always interested in helping others and leading,” he said. “She has maintained excellent rapport with students from all backgrounds. She remains focused in stressful situations and never compromises what she knows is best for students. Innovative is a word that we use at Beechwood, and she exemplifies it perfectly.”

Michael Brinkman, a father of two students who have experienced Ritchie’s class, said his children believe Ritchie is the teacher who challenges them while making learning fun. And she’s one they won’t forget.

“We first met Mrs. Ritchie five years ago when our oldest son Ben entered her 2nd-grade classroom,” Brinkman said. “As parents, we loved the excitement she was fostering with her students, but more than that, we loved how she was modeling the importance of being a well-rounded person, that pushing oneself should never come at the sake of being unkind to another, and that one’s mental and academic abilities are just as important as your physical health.”

Jill Harrison Berg, who is a National Board-Certified Teacher, an author for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and a monthly columnist for Educational Leadership magazine, said Ritchie is a multiplier and a powerful leader.

She said she first met Ritchie through the Network to Transform Teaching project.

“I have continued to follow the tremendous impact of her leadership on both students and adults. The changes in school professional culture initiated with Ashley as team lead have continued to inspire teachers throughout the school to step up to make the changes their students need within the school, and also to extend themselves as part of learning networks beyond the school,” said Berg.

Ritchie believes that, in the world of education, everything starts with your “why.”

“Relationships should be at the heart of every teacher’s ‘why.’ Teachers spend years building relationships with students, families and colleagues,” Ritchie said. “No matter what changes they face, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, teachers are constant. They work even harder to develop relationships with their students in order to make them successful leaders and learners.”

Ritchie said educators need to be champions for each other.

“As educators, we know the importance of bringing new educators into our profession. So, not only must we be a champion for current educators, but we must also support and cheer for those in teacher preparation programs across our state,” she said.

“Just like students, teachers need a champion to cheer on their successes, reflect on areas of growth, and support the social-emotional health of each other,” Ritchie said. “Every day, teachers are champions for the students of the Commonwealth, but remember that we must also be champions for one another. We will rise together – better, stronger and more prepared to educate the students of Kentucky.”

Hallie Booth, Ballyshannon Middle School, 2022 Middle School Teacher of the Year

Written by Jacqueline Thompson, and first published by Kentucky Teacher, a publication of KDE

Kentucky’s 2022 Middle School Teacher of the Year Hallie Booth wanted to be a teacher since she was little. She was inspired to pursue the calling by her father, a health and physical education teacher, and her mother, a computer technology teacher.

Now in her 27th year in education, Booth has served in a variety of roles, including as a regional science lead for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). She currently is teaching 8th-grade science at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County).

In all her positions, Booth strives to help her students become whatever they aspire to be.

At the end of each year she tells her students, “Just because you leave my room, it does not mean I will not be there for you if you ever need anything.” Some students even return to Booth in later years for help studying in high school or college.

A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Booth earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice law enforcement, a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s in special education, an endorsement in K-9 science education and a Rank 1 in leadership.

Her high school chemistry teacher inspired her personal philosophy of teaching and learning by setting up a working partnership with the Kroger Technical Institute, where Booth and her classmates would leave school in the morning and work with Kroger on the development of products using the content knowledge learned in class.

“It was her class that changed my mind about science and my future,” said Booth. “Her idea was not to just lecture, but to connect us to real-world applications, allow exploration and learn the content through application.”

Booth said that while it can be difficult to connect middle school students to partnership opportunities, she has managed to find them.

When developing each teaching unit around the idea of exploration, Booth has students identify the direction of their exploration and plan what they will need to do in order to research their ideas and pose solutions. Booth then connects them with researchers, scientists, engineers and other professionals that help them accomplish their solutions and provide feedback.

During a unit on genetics, one of Booth’s students who expressed interest in the medical field said she wanted to explore more information on possible genetic disorders. Booth connected the student with a hospital geneticist and the student had the opportunity to assist the geneticist in her research. Today, that student is a genetic engineer.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) also is an important part of developing Booth’s classroom culture. She was taught by her parents that everyone has something with which they are dealing.

Years before she learned about SEL, Booth began to research ways she could help students manage their emotions. One book on behavior management suggested taking time to breathe and pausing before responding. Booth began to model and implement these tactics in her classroom.

“I began one day saying to them, ‘Guys I have had a rough morning, I just need a minute. Can you all give me a minute to just breathe and get myself together?’” said Booth.

She later showed her students how to count to 10 before responding to someone when she was frustrated.

Although her students were skeptical in the beginning, Booth continued to model these methods for several weeks. Eventually, her students began to request breathing moments at the start of each class.

“It was amazing to watch and see the overall students’ behaviors decrease as they began to learn different ways to react to situations,” said Booth.

Booth’s advice to her fellow educators is to never pass up an opportunity.

“We are the role models for them, always continuing to learn ourselves, try new things and share with our students, make mistakes and learn from them,” said Booth. “Above all, take the opportunities given no matter how uncomfortable it might make us feel, and treat every student as though they are our own child.”

Booth resides in Fort Mitchell with her husband, Jim, and enjoys being a grandmother.

Photos from the Kentucky Department of Education

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