Daviess County Middle School language arts teacher Laura Murphy can remember December 15th, 2014 like it was yesterday. She had been in the media center and was walking back into her classroom when her principal stopped her in the hallway. “We walked through the door to find a scene that will be forever etched in my mind: all of my family members, a few local business owners, a couple of cameramen, and a huge gift basket accompanied with a beautiful bouquet of roses filled my room,” Murphy recalled.
The gift basket she’s talking about was a prize package with $1,400 worth of gift certificates and other donations from a group of local small business owners who started the Distinguished Teacher Award to recognize an outstanding teacher in Owensboro/Daviess County each year.
“Teachers put so much time, effort, love and care into what they do,” said Lance & Co.’s Mandy Collins, speaking on behalf of the founding businesses. “We decided to honor them for that and make them feel appreciated.”
The result was an abundance of gift cards and lavish items including jewelry, beauty products, clothing, food, art and fitness programs. The businesses advertised on social media and sent emails to city and county schools inviting people to nominate teachers for the award. The response was overwhelming; it took two weeks for the committee to read the hundreds of nomination letters they received from administrators, co-workers, sons, daughters,
husbands and wives.
After several shed tears and a lot of heartfelt deliberation, the entries were eventually narrowed down to twenty, then seven, and then two finalists. The intent was to choose one grand prize winner, but the final two candidates were so deserving that they added a runner-up prize.
Janie Montgomery, a twenty-five year veteran teacher at Owensboro Middle School South, was named the runner-up and received gift certificates from Lance & Co. Jewelers, Pure Barre and another certificate to get her hair, makeup and nails done.
With family and co-workers in attendance, both teachers were surprised at their schools with an assortment of gifts from the participating businesses, as well as a beautiful certificate acknowledging their achievement. The ladies were overwhelmed with the outpouring of appreciation they each received.
For Murphy, the Distinguished Teacher Award had a lasting impact. “One of the biggest blessings that resulted from the Distinguished Teaching Award was expanding my fitness level, which has helped me to become a more balanced teacher, making time for myself outside of school,” she said. One of the gift certificates in the prize package was a month membership to Pure Barre. After “falling in love with the workout,” Laura became an instructor. She also enjoyed getting to know several of the other business owners as she’s used the gift cards over the past year.
“I feel very blessed to be the first recipient of this honor, and I am thankful to the local businesses who are taking the time to recognize these local teachers. I can still remember the teachers who impacted my life most, and they are the ones who propelled me into my career path. Many others are deserving of this award so I cannot say enough how much it meant to me,” Murphy said.
The attributes to consider for the nomination include: personal initiative, going above and beyond their obligation, innovative teaching methods, and encouraging students to achieve academic goals and success.
All K-12 teachers in any of the three school districts – Daviess County Public Schools, Owensboro Public Schools, or Owensboro Catholic Schools – are eligible. Entries must be submitted no later than November 28th. The winner will be announced December 14th.
At the time of this printing, Pure Barre, Lance & Company Jewelers, Oasis Tanning Salon, Excursions, Face Forward, Legends, Bakers Rack, Studio Slant, The Earle, Welborn’s Florist and Dream Copy Photography are participating this year, but more are expected to join.