The KCTE recognizes outstanding educators of English and Language Arts during our annual conference. Nominate an outstanding teacher or administrator today. 

Nominations for the 2024 awards will be accepted through May 5, 2024.

The 2023 Award Winners Recognized at the
Annual Conference:

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Jackie Bilotta

Jackie Bilotta has been a Kentucky public school educator for the past 21 years with a focus on advocating for students with special needs.  She is currently an ELA resource teacher serving Kindergarten through 5th grade students at Bloom Elementary School in Jefferson County.  In her free time, she enjoys camping, kayaking, hiking, and all things outdoors with her husband and two sons.

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Tiffany Whaley

Tiffany Whaley is a decorated teacher with nearly 20 years of experience. She currently teaches 5th grade ELA at Mayfield Middle School. The Mayfield, Ky. native is a graduate of Murray State University with a masters in education and a GT endorsement that has provided her the opportunity of working with MSU Super Saturdays to serve gifted students, while working towards her rank I certification. In addition to her passion for investing in her kids she teaches, Tiffany enjoys gardening, traveling and spending time with her husband, David and son, Logan.

High School Teacher of the Year: Heather Miller

Heather Miller is a graduate of Murray State University and is currently serving her eleventh year as a teacher at Graves County High School. She also acts as yearbook adviser, SBDM secretary, New Teacher Coach, and is a member of Graves County's District Instructional Leadership Team. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband, Nick, where they are raising their two sons. Mrs. Miller's passion is building and sharing a love of books with her students as well as supporting new teachers in the profession.

College Teacher of the Year: Dr. Ray Horton

Dr. Ray Horton is Assistant Professor of English at Murray State University in Murray, KY, where he teaches American literature. He lives in Murray with his wife, Erin, and his daughters, Emersyn and Avery. His work has been published in PMLA, Christianity & Literature, LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory, and Post45, and he is currently at work on a book project tentatively titled American Fiction's Secular Faith.

Gretchen Niva Service Award: Kate Barrows

Kate Barrows served in Jefferson County Public Schools as an English and reading teacher at Liberty High School in Louisville, Kentucky for 15 years and is a staunch advocate for alternatives to traditional learning  She is currently serving in her 4th year as the library media specialist at W.E.B. DuBois Academy in JCPS. Kate has held a variety of roles in literacy leadership and has presented at the district, state, and national level.  She is an active member of several professional organizations and serves as the SLATE (support for learning and teaching of English) for the Kentucky Council for Teachers of English. An avid reader herself, Kate believes literacy is a basic human right and works diligently to advocate for every human to get the support they need to empower themselves as readers.

Administrator of the Year: Dr. Sandra Hogue

Dr. Sandra L. Hogue is a career educator who has served children, educators, and administrators within and beyond her community for 28 years. As the youngest of six growing up in the west end of Louisville, Sandra was drawn by passion and compassion to serve high-need urban schools. In her current role as ELA Instructional Lead for the 33 elementary, middle, and high schools in Jefferson County's Accelerated Improvement Schools, she continues to inspire urban education competence in others.

Stephanie Kirk Learning Grant: Christine Vickers

Christine Vickers is a teacher at Gallatin County Middle School and plans to use this $500 Classroom Grant to supplement supplies for the SRSD Writing program. SRSD is a strategy to help students develop writing as a skill; mainly argumentative writing, allowing students to become proficient at writing. With this award, students will be provided with all the necessary materials to be successful in ELA (folders, index cards, rings to secure index cards, color copies, reference materials, highlighters, etc). SRSD is evidence-based with 40+ years of research. There have been over 200 studies supporting SRSD.

Intellectual Freedom Award: Kristen Heckel

Kristen Heckel, a former English teacher, is the Library Media Specialist at Waggener High School and continues to champion students' rights to read in her library. She faced a very difficult challenge from a community member for making inclusive books available to her student readers that went as far as a civil lawsuit. We recognized her for her courage and bravery in the face of harrassment, media attention, time away from her beloved family and library, and for refusing to back down. Way to go Kristen!

The 2022 Award Winners Recognized at the
Annual Conference:

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Brandi Borgemenke, Gallatin County Elementary School

Brandi Borgemenke, Ms. B. to her students, graduated from Northern Kentucky University and is completing her Masters at the University of the Cumberlands. Ms. B. has been teaching for 7 years - she has spent time teaching in inner-city, rural, and Montessori-based settings. Being an educator goes far beyond academics; Ms. B.’s goal is to show her students how loved they are. She wants them to feel confident and know they have the ability to accomplish everything they set their minds to.

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Melanie Callahan, South Laurel Middle School

Melanie Callahan is a certified educator in Middle School English, Communication, and Theatre Arts.   Currently teaching at South Laurel Middle School in London, Mrs. Callahan was named Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year by KDE in 2020 and Kappa Delta Pi Teacher of Honor in 2017. She is an Honorable Kentucky Colonel, member of KCTE, and former EPSB board member for the Arts and Humanities. Mrs. Callahan's research emphasis is on 18th Century culture, particularly Shaker writings and teachings.

High School Teacher of the Year: Jayna Fox, Oldham County High School

Jayna Fox spent the first twelve years of her career at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Jefferson County and moved to Oldham County High School during her thirteenth-year teaching. Competency-based education and standards-focused instruction has been a constant theme in Jayna’s approach to teaching.  Jayna believes that this approach provides clear expectations for each student, holds them accountable, and encourages learning by providing them with choices within the curriculum. Jayna has an amazing support system through her husband, Elliot Fox, and their two daughters, as well as her extended family (many of whom are also teachers). She enjoys cooking, photography, and working outside with her daughters.

College Teacher of the Year: Dr. Leslie David Burns, University of Kentucky

Dr. Leslie David Burns is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of Kentucky. He has served as Program Chair of English Education there since 2005 and has enjoyed over 25 years as a teacher and teacher educator. He is a co-author of the National Council of Teachers of English National Standards for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts, Grades 7-12, and the author/editor of numerous articles and books. Dr. Burns dedicates this award to his wonderful, inspiring students, who teach him over and over that learning, literacy, community, and love really do make all the difference in the world.

Administrator of the Year: Dr. Holli Hunt, Principal, Gallatin County Middle School

Dr. Holli Hunt is the Principal at Gallatin County Middle School.  As a 14-year veteran, she has served in many roles in education including teaching, mentoring, and coaching.   She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, Ashford University, Murray State University, and the University of the Cumberlands.  Dr. Hunt is extremely passionate about assisting students to overcome adversity and become the best version of themselves.  She has been married for 17 years and is the mother of three beautiful daughters.

Gretchen Niva Service Award: Dr. Andrea Olinger, University of Louisville

Dr. Andrea Olinger is an associate professor of English at the University of Louisville, where she directs the composition program and the Thomas R. Watson Conference in Rhetoric and Composition. She teaches undergraduate college writing courses as well as courses on writing pedagogy, research methods, and disciplinary writing. Her research on writing teacher development, disciplinary writing, and style in academic writing can be found in journals such as English Education, Written Communication, and Literacy in Composition Studies. When she’s not at work, she’s busy making handmade books and brewing kombucha.