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Educators benefit from STEM Master’s Degree program geared towards workforce development improvement

Board of Education pose for a photo with recipients and guest presenters

Wayne County Schools are part of a movement to pair education with economic development to create global success. Local educators want to provide students with skills to create new jobs for themselves and improve employment opportunities in the future.

On the education side, local administrators are customizing and expanding learning opportunities so students can succeed.

Just this past week, two Wayne County School educators were honored at the monthly board of education meeting for their dedication to pursue educational training opportunities. Elementary Instructional Coach Amanda Beck and High School Instructional Coach Mikki Simmons received complimentary laptops during a ceremony recognizing their three-year journey to become teacher leaders in STEM related courses.

The local teachers recently completed their second Master’s Degree through Morehead State University for their Rank I. They are amongst the “Elite 100” educators across the state that were selected for the Kentucky SOAR-STEM initiative. Through this grant, they have pursued National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification and valuable Project Lead the Way training.

Wayne County Schools are proud to currently be offering STEM courses at all three levels – elementary, middle, and high school. The district has invested in these programs that have gradually been implemented over the past several years. The goal is for them to continue to grow so more and more students will benefit from the hands-on style teaching methods of such rigorous subjects, that will better prepare them for jobs in the future.

Through the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR)-STEM initiative, Wayne County’s instructional coaches completed an intensive curriculum program where they traveled to classes in Corbin biweekly along with online sessions, plus two-week summer trainings, to become well versed and prepared to educate children in STEM (Science , Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.

Both of these local educators are originally from Clinton County. They will now be able to share what they have learned with other teachers at the school levels in Wayne County.

Amanda Beck is starting her third year as an elementary instructional coach. She attended WKU where she received an Elementary Education Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Special Education. She began teaching in 2003 as a kindergarten teacher at Monticello Elementary. She continued teaching kindergarten at Wayne County once the schools merged resulting in 16 years of classroom experience.

Mikki Simmons is currently serving as a high school instructional coach. Previously, she taught Biology from 2010 to 2014 at Wayne County High School. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing/Business Administration from Tennessee Tech in 2001. Later she obtained an Alternative Certification for high school Science/Biology from Tennessee Tech, completing her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2010.

The board of education members especially appreciated the two guests who traveled to Wayne County to commend the teachers and present them with laptops in appreciation of their efforts and commitment to the program.

Superintendent Wayne Roberts thanked Rodney Hitch, Director of Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, based in Winchester, Kentucky,

for showcasing this opportunity for teachers. Hitch is striving to develop the world’s largest workforce trained in STEM, a lofty expectation. He was accompanied by Michelle Herrman, Vice-President of Finance and Member Services, for South Kentucky RECC, the local Touchstone Energy Cooperative. These organizations are amongst a host of companies who contributed financially to this grant initiative, as well as helping to facilitate the program in eastern Kentucky.

Economic Development Director Hitch suggested the new graduates “pay it forward” so STEM studies can continue to grow and help provide good paying jobs for local students. He explained that he “selfishly wants to keep our kids here” in the future.

In promoting economic development in Kentucky, the program is striving to reach teachers in demographic areas where there is a low number of national board certified teachers and a limited number of STEM teachers. While the local schools are working hard to educate students in STEM curriculum and making strides, Wayne County falls in the region they wanted to target.

He said there are a dozen entities that contribute financially to this on-going program including Toyota and the Department of Local Government. He was impressed to learn that Wayne County Schools offer stem courses at three levels.

Both teachers thanked the visitors for the laptops and the chance to receive a Master’s Degree at no cost through such a worthwhile learning experience, in spite of the fact that it was very challenging.

Amanda Beck noted that she teaches her children to participate in things – not because they are easy, but because they are hard – so she thought it was appropriate to model that behavior by tackling the ten rigorous and difficult courses.


Michelle Herrman SKRECC VP and Director of Economic Development Rodney Hitch

Board of Education pose for a photo with recipients and guest presenters

(L-R) Michelle Herrman, Instructional Coach Amanda Beck, Instructional Coach Mikki Simmons, and Rodney Hitch

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