Kentucky Teachers | Thank You For Your Unwavering Influence

It’s no secret that Kentucky is experiencing a crisis in education. Read more about the situation here.

We all have voices – from Harlan to Paducah – and it is our duty to voice them. This is why I want to declare to Gov. Bevin & our legislators, today and each day, that #IStandWithKentuckyTeachers.


My aunt, Mrs. Jessie Sullivan Hopper, an employee of the Russell County School System.

I’ve had the privilege of obtaining an elite education; this is the blessing that I am most thankful for in life. This would not have been possible without the influence of wonderful, intelligent, inspiring, giving, hardworking public school teachers.

Let me tell you about a few.

I am from my grandmother, Judith Phelps – a strong-willed, big-hearted, loving teacher that inspired many elementary school children in SOKY for 27 years. She encouraged and taught me to read at a young age, has always been my biggest cheerleader, and told me that a boy from Russell County can do anything that he sets his mind to — and she was right. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Jude.

I am from my great-aunt, Jerry Jones – one of the most loved, revered teachers in our region. Everyone loves “Mrs. Jerry” and I’m lucky that I get to call her mine. Thank you for your unwavering influence, JJ.

I am from my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Oakes Phelps – a legendary Kentucky educator and literacy advocate. From starting the Russell County Public Library, to teaching many children to read in the classroom, to driving the bookmobile, to advocating for literacy in Appalachia — she fully understood the influence that educators have in the lives of young Kentuckians. Thank you for your unwavering influence, MaMa.

I am from my great-grandfather, Carl Phelps – a hardworking farmer and teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Esto, Kentucky. I still have some of his attendance cards and notes; I will forever cherish them. Thank you for your unwavering influence, PaPa.

I am from my aunt, Jessie Sullivan Hopper – a young mother of three that lives and breathes for children. From preschool to kindergarten, I can assure you that she is a blessing to more children than she realizes. She was made to be a teacher – and we are all better because of it. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Jess.

I am from my godmother, Johnna Womack Bolin. A teacher that is as lovable as she is kind. To be in her classroom, under her guidance, is a privilege – one that every child could hope to have. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Belle.

I am from my dear friend, Mary Lee Marshall. A woman that blesses all that know her, let alone the many that got to learn under her guidance. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Mary Lee.

I am from Mrs. Tonya Adams, a leader in the Russell County School System. As my elementary school principal, she believed wholeheartedly in me. She accommodated my advanced learning, advocated for a curriculum that challenged me, and worked more than was required to ensure that I was being set up for success. I hope she knows how much I appreciated her then and especially how much I appreciate her now as an adult. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Mrs. Adams.

I am from Mrs. Shanna Tarter’s and Mrs. Laura Davidson’s classroom – a place that normalized my love for literature, encouraged me to look at topics from varied perspectives, and enabled me to take the stage for poetry recitation. Their teaching and friendship gave me the voice, the confidence, and the courage to try – and succeed – at new things. Thank you for your unwavering influence, y’all.

I am from Señora Palacky’s classroom – the environment that fostered my love for foreign language, enabled me to build leadership skills as president of the World Language Club, and opened my eyes to the benefits of being bilingual/multilingual in the professional world. Her teaching inspired the course of my studies at Centre College, which led to studying abroad and doing an internship in Mérida. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Señora.

I am from Mrs. Robin Rixon’s classroom – the arena that taught me, the son and grandson of amazing entrepreneurs, about the formalities of a business education. My love for her classes inspired me to obtain degrees in Economics and Finance, along with my MBA. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Mrs. Rixon.

I am from the classrooms of each and every math teacher that taught me (Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Carnes, Mrs. Walters, Mrs. Wade, and so many more) – the ones that gave me extra problems before and after school, provided me with additional books, and always motivated me to keep honing my abilities. While some perceived me to be a math nerd, they thought of me as a pupil, an individual with an insatiable taste for knowledge – and for that, I am eternally indebted.  Thank you for your unwavering influence, fellow math nerds!

I am from Mrs. Davene DeVore’s classroom – an art teacher that proved that a math nerd has a creative and artistic side. While pursuing my master’s and doctorate degrees, I have been self-employed by my writing, photography, and lifestyle blog. I am more creative than I ever gave myself credit for… and she told me that over and over. Thank you for your unwavering influence, Mrs. DeVore.

These are just a few of the teachers that have touched and influenced me in a way that words cannot adequately express. The strides that I have made in life are largely due to their guidance, love, and leadership. As President Abraham Lincoln said, “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” The mentioned friend = my teachers.

I think that future Kentucky school children deserve the highest quality education possible; consequently, we need teachers that inspire, motivate, and catalyze. With rocky pension and future options, budding teachers will be dissuaded from entering into the noble profession – individuals that have the potential to make a ginormous difference in the lives of our coming generations.

We cannot – and should not – stand for that.

A pension is a promise.

I am a product of the Kentucky Public School System — and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for what you’ve done. This blog post is a small drop in the bucket of what I owe you – however, do know that I will support you consistently, tirelessly, and incessantly.

Thank you for your unwavering influence.



JCP, a product of Kentucky Public Schools

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  • Reply Lindsay April 3, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    This is absolutely wonderful. I am beside myself over this – I can only hope that it’s a blood bath come election time. Thank you for sharing such a positive post on this today!

  • Reply thegirlofwords April 3, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you! Makes my heart smile… and I still have a copy of the math rap you wrote and performed! You are an amazing person who loves learning like no other. Forever grateful our paths crossed and blessed to watch you grow through you many adventures!

  • Reply Laritsa Nicasio April 4, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Love the post

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