MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WEHT) A Hopkins County teacher is back in school, a day after being named Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year. 

Kelly Gates, a 5th grade teacher at Pride Elementary, received the honor yesterday.      

Not every school day starts with people lining the halls to applaud a teacher. Of course, it’s not every day a teacher is named the best in the state.

“When I came out to take my student to specials, I was a little caught off guard. I thought my teammates were just down in the hallway, and when I made the corner, and saw the entire school, it was very humbling,” Gates recalled.

Gates is in her 26th year of teaching. She received the Elementary School Teacher of the Year award Tuesday in Frankfort. Amber Hays, a preschool teacher at Thelma B. Johnson Early Learning Center in Henderson, was a finalist for the award. A former student and parent nominated Gates for her work in and out of the classroom, including helping students work on a memorial garden for tornado victims in Dawson Springs.

“I think it speaks volumes not only of her as a teacher, but of our school and our school community at large that we are just here for our students,” said principal Amy Bryan Clark.

“Tt’s a very affirming opportunity to have because it helps you realize that you make a difference,” adds Gates.

Gates is making a difference in a career she almost didn’t choose.

“I earned a business degree, and was actually looking at a different route. But when I worked with students at church and vacation bible school, and discipleship training, I had, kind of a knack for working with students,” she recalled.

Gates says she was humbled by the win, and knows there are others like her who should get the same honor.

“There are so many teachers across our state that are just as phenomenal or better. We should celebrate all teachers,” Gates said.

This isn’t the first time Gates has been honored. She also says she has won Hopkins County teacher of the year, and other awards during her educational career.

(This story was originally published on September 21, 2022)