Kathy Keith is honored as ‘Teacher of the Year’ for her dedication to her students and school

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A student assembly at Switzerland County Elementary School last Thursday morning was arranged so that one of the school’s teacher could receive a special honor.

Sitting with the students in her second grade class, teacher Kathy Keith was busy chatting with her kids and making sure that everyone was paying attention during the assembly. As Principal Mike Jones introduced employee from the Madison Wal-Mart store, Kathy Keith noticed that her sister-in-law, Michelle Self, was one of the employees making the presentation.

Shortly into Principal Jones’ remarks, Kathy Keith noticed that several members of her family were entering the gym and taking a seat for the assembly.

That’s when it hit her.

“I figured out that I was the winner that they were talking about,” she said with a laugh. “I was very surprised.”

Michelle Self told the student body about the Wal-Mart “Teacher of the Year” award, which is presented around the country, with one teacher being recognized for each store nationwide. The winning teacher earned a $100 gift card for themselves, and also $1,000 for the school that they teach in.

As Kathy Keith was introduced, the students from Switzerland County Elementary School erupted into applause.

“I’m shocked,” she told the assembly. “I don’t do anything special. I don’t do anything that all of these other teachers don’t do. I’m just one of them. This is very special.”

Principal Jones congratulated Kathy Keith on the award, and then introduced Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jones, who was once the principal at Switzerland County Elementary School.

“Mrs. Keith had asked me if she could take a professional day today and go to Ball State to hear an author speak, and I didn’t know what to do,” Dr. Jones told the audience. “I mean, how do you say no to Mrs. Keith? I just couldn’t, but I knew that she had to be here today, so I just avoided her for a few days.”

The award is judged on nominations made by children. The author of the nomination is not known, but judging by the applause that the announcement received – there couldn’t have been a better nominee.

“When all of those people showed up. All those members of my family, I was just in shock,” Kathy Keith said. “My daughter Erin came home from Ball State the night before and stayed with a friend so I would be surprised. It makes me feel really good and I’m very honored.”

Kathy Keith is a native of Rising Sun – where she still lives with her husband, Dale – and following graduation she attended Indiana State University to earn her bachelor’s in elementary education.

But that wasn’t her original plan.

“Actually I wanted to be a social worker, because I wanted to help people,” she said. “But in college we went and visited some group homes, and I knew that just wasn’t for me. That’s when I decided that I could help people by teaching and helping children. It’s been wonderful.”

Kathy Keith has taught for 28 years, having taught her first three years in Versailles before moving on to Switzerland County Elementary. She mainly taught first and second grades during her teaching career; and loves her job and the children she teaches.

What will come from the $1,000 check?

Kathy Keith says that she wants the money to go to something that will benefit all of the children, and – being a lover of children’s literature – her first thoughts are to use the funds to bring a children’s book author to Switzerland County Elementary School so that all of the children can meet and learn from them.

Another option would be to use the funds toward the purchase of new playground equipment at the school; but she keeps coming back to the author visit as her first choice.

“All of the children would learn so much from that,” she says.

That’s why Kathy Keith was honored as an outstanding educator – she’s always teaching.

– Pat Lanman