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Hurst has big shoes to fill in state contest

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2009 Bullitt County Teacher of the Year

By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Emily Hurst compared her teaching philosophy to race car driving.

Hurst compared the two by noting their continuous strive for success, with assistance from a full team, while maneuvering around obstacles and giving their best effort in hopes of winning.

It was the way classroom obstacles were handled and the support from fellow faculty members that Hurst said helped her achieve the honor of Bullitt County’s 2009 Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Hurst’s entire educational career took place in Bullitt County, including the past four years as an Exceptional Child Educator (ECE) with Shepherdsville Elementary. She previously worked part-time at Brooks and Freedom Elementary.

As an ECE Hurst assists special education students with various types of learning disabilities. She primarily works with third grade students in a classroom setting, though each child requires individual attention and assistance.

Hurst’s classes consist of smaller groups, up to 15 at a time, from other homerooms.

“We provide them individualized curriculum,” said Hurst. “We work individually into their level to help make them successful.”

Hurst assists fifth grade classrooms in Reading and Social Studies groups, supplying additional assistance to help students keep pace.

“Emily is definitely an asset to my classroom as she helps me give the students a smaller teacher to student ratio,” said fifth grade instructor Rick Lumpkins, a former Bullitt County Elementary Teacher of the Year. “A teacher of her caliber is always a welcomed addition to any classroom.”

Some of Hurst’s success can be measured through test scores. Many of her students scored proficient in state assessment test scores.

“I think (Hurst) is a wonderful teacher and the students’ test scores echo that,” said principal David Pate. “She’s done some amazing things, she makes connections.”

Pate said part of Hurst’s success comes from pushing the students to their limits, helping them conquer barriers while accepting no excuses.

“Some kids feel like she pushes them hard, but at the end of the year they realize they’re better students,” said Pate. “She’s gotten things out of kids that no one else thought they could do.”

Like other students, Hurst prepares children for more than assessment tests.

“Just because they attend special education now doesn’t mean they’ll remain in special education the rest of their lives,” she said. “We’ll do anything to help prepare them for the real world. We boost their self-esteem. They start to smile more, then they’re willing to participate more in their regular classroom. They have more confidence.”

Hurst implements interactive education, using games, songs and movements as part of her curriculum.

“These are the types of students that like to do hands-on learning,” she said. “It requires more intense planning and strategy.”

Each semester Hurst develops her schedule around other classrooms to maximize her time with students.

“Just a little extra attention makes a difference,” she said. “This classroom is very structured. You have to have kids on a certain routine.”

Hurst mentioned Jo Robb, her Kindergarten teacher at Brooks Elementary. She recalled Robb making education fun through activities such as show-and-tell.

“(Robb) just made learning fun at a young age,” said Hurst. “She let me bring my cat in for show-and-tell. I see myself trying to make learning fun like her.”

Along with attending Brooks, the Bullitt County native graduated from North Bullitt High School. Her mother, Becky Hurst, taught school for 30 years in Jefferson County. Her grandparents, Ruby and Bill Wells, were both school principals.

Hurst didn’t immediately follow in her family’s educational footsteps. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Management at Campbellsville University.

Following an internship at Disney World, Hurst changed her mind about entering the educational field. She earned a Masters in Special Education at Campbellsville and is currently working toward her Rank One degree. She has also been accepted to the University of Louisville Doctorate program as a curriculum and instruction specialist.

“It was always special education,” said Hurst. “I started by subbing for a special education teacher. I felt like it was something my heart was into. I felt I could meet the students’ needs.”

Hurst was surprised by her honor, announced over the school’s television station. Pate said Hurst thought she was in trouble at first.

“Then she found out and the tears were streaming,” he laughed.

Hurst was the second Shepherdsville instructor in three years to earn the county elementary honor, joining former Shepherdsville instructor Tammy Spratt.

The previous two Bullitt County elementary winners, Spratt and Lisa Wathan of Freedom Elementary, also earned the State Elementary Teacher of the Year award.

Hurst was pleased enough to receive an award at her own school.

“I was shocked,” she admitted. “I’m not as involved in the overall school.”

“(Hurst) is innovative and upbeat and always showing her professionalism,” said Lumpkins. “Our students benefit greatly from her ability to collaborate with the classroom teachers and to help give all students an equitable opportunity to reach their potentials.”