Members of the 2018 class of the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame are (from left) Gloria K. Compton, the late Ronald Montgomery and the late Mattie Jo Smith.
Family members, friends and former students celebrated the life-changing impact of three outstanding teachers Tuesday (Feb. 6) at the Capitol Rotunda during the induction of the 10th class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame.
The 2018 inductees, chosen by the statewide selection committee, were Gloria K. Compton of Lexington, the late Ronald Montgomery of Louisville and the late Mattie Jo Smith of Benton. (More: View from the Hill on the 2018 induction ceremony)
“At WKU we relish and value our role in preparing Kentucky’s teachers,” President Timothy C. Caboni said. “The Teacher Hall of Fame induction day at the Capitol is a tremendous opportunity for us to honor the best in the teaching profession throughout our state. These three teachers were passionate, strong leaders in the classroom and they had enormous impact influence in the lives of their students.”
Compton, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s ceremony because her husband is ill, spent 30 years (1962-1992) teaching health and physical education at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, served as department chair, athletic director, cheerleading coach and established and coached gymnastics and girls’ track and field programs.
Compton's daughter Cari Marshall accepted the award on her mother’s behalf. Compton was humbled and honored to receive the Hall of Fame recognition, Marshall said, but “she doesn’t think she is worthy.”
Kathy Litton, who taught with Compton, was among several friends and colleagues from Bryan Station at the ceremony. Litton said Compton was a pioneer in providing athletic opportunities for girls, but she noted that Compton had an impact on all students who were required to take health and physical education classes. “She touched all of those lives,” Litton said.
Montgomery, who died in 2009, taught history and broadcasting at Thomas Jefferson Middle and High schools in Louisville during a 27-year career and earned recognition for his innovative approach to teaching through a student-run television broadcast.
Former student Michael Richmond said Montgomery impacted him and countless other middle school students at a pivotal time in their lives as sixth, seventh and eighth graders. “He shaped a generation of kids,” Richmond said.
Richmond, who nominated Montgomery for the award and accepted on behalf of the family, noted that “Mrs. Montgomery has told me many times that he never felt it was a job.”
Smith, who died in January at age 99, began her teaching career in 1938 at a one-room school in Marshall County, then taught junior high math and English for Benton Independent School District from 1952 until her retirement in 1980.
Smith’s daughter Susan Barnard and son Phillip Smith accepted the award.
Smith had been notified of her Teacher Hall of Fame selection last fall. “She was very humble about it, but she was very proud,” her son said.
In addition to her years of teaching, Smith said his mother served as an example in the Benton community where she volunteered at the local hospital and taught Sunday school at her church for more than 50 years. “She always wanted to do the right thing,” he said.
“Her spirit is here with us,” Barnard said. “We know she would be proud.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, a third-generation teacher, congratulated the inductees’ families and friends. “Events like today are a little glimpse of what our teachers get to do for our kids,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton noted the impact teachers have had on her life. “I applaud all of you here today who are teachers.” Hampton said. “These three people represent a lifetime of learning, a lifetime of teaching, a lifetime of what is maybe the most critical profession on earth.”
“Teachers are life changers,” said Rep. John Carney, chair of the House Education Committee and a former teacher, coach and school administrator. “In a profession that is going through some difficult times I would suggest that in these times teachers will always step forward and do the right thing. They’ll be there for our young folks. They’ll educate the future because they know what’s at stake and that is the prosperity of Commonwealth of Kentucky, but most importantly a changed life. We change one life at a time.”
The Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame is housed in WKU’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.
The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame was established in 2000 through a generous gift from former governor, Louie B. Nunn. With his gift, Gov. Nunn hoped to recognize Kentuckians who have made significant contributions to the teaching profession. The inaugural class was inducted in 2008 and 33 teachers have been recognized.
“WKU was originally established as a teacher’s college with a mission to produce teachers across Kentucky,” President Caboni said. “Now some 113 years later we remain one of the top producers of teachers, counselors, school administrators and other school personnel in the Commonwealth, which is a great source of pride for our institution.
“Our mission at WKU is to transform student lives and one of the remarkable ways we do it is by creating teachers who transform the lives of their students.”
Contact: Tammy Spinks, (270) 745-4464