Once Kendra Morehead started helping at a local daycare, it wasn’t long before she figured out what career path she wanted to take.
That dedication to education was recognized Wednesday, Nov. 10, when Morehead, a kindergarten teacher at Metropolis Elementary School, was one of six teachers from southern Illinois and western Kentucky who was recognized as a McDonald’s outstanding educator.
“Mrs. Morehead has been recognized for her ultimate dedication to her students and her dedication to providing the best of education during these trying times, as evidenced by her nominations from her peers and students,” said Conrad Love, who is part of the Love Family McDonald’s franchise.
The second annual award sought nominees from August 30 through September 17. Community members were asked to submit kindergarten through high school teachers who demonstrate ultimate dedication to their students and contribute to the improvement of education.
Love said Morehead’s name was submitted by a local McDonald’s customer via a QR code on a bag filler. Love said Morehead’s name was subsequently placed in a pool “based on the accolades on the nomination list. She was one of six selected in the area to win the award.”
McDonald’s Outstanding Educators received: money to spend on their classrooms; a Best Teacher Ever coffee mug; an Outstanding Educator certificate; and McDonald’s coupons to teach it forward to parents with outstanding students all year round.
“Kendra is a great teacher, like so many others in Massac Unit 1,” said Chief Inspector Jason Hayes. “I’m really proud of them all this year for achievements like this and for all those who go unnoticed in our classrooms every day. We are really lucky with the staff we have.”
MES director JR Conkle has worked with Morehead for five years.
“Mrs Morehead is an excellent teacher. She goes out of her way to make learning fun for her students,” he said. “During the pandemic, she ran the district-wide Camp Kindergarten that was seen by all the preschoolers and families in the district. It’s great to see her efforts being rewarded.”
Conkle noted that Morehead is a National Board certified teacher, a designation obtained by a small percentage of the country’s teachers. She and Teri Russell are currently the only teachers in the district to receive the certification.
“They have to go through extensive classroom work, research and reflection work to get this designation,” Conkle said.
According to its website, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was established in 1987. It is an independent non-profit organization that works to promote a full education for all students. Its mission is to promote the quality of teaching and learning by: maintaining high and rigorous standards for what experienced teachers should know and be able to do; providing a national voluntary system to certify teachers who meet these standards; and advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification into U.S. education and to take advantage of the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.
“Any teacher can choose to try to become National Board Certified,” Hayes said. “From what I’ve seen of this certification process, it’s very difficult and time-consuming to accomplish. The board has its own educational standards that are recognized by all states. This is something that you must request and demonstrate proof of your teaching ability through a series of videos of the teacher’s teaching classes. We have had a total of three National Board Certified teachers in our district.”
The recognition of being named a McDonald’s Outstanding Educator “is amazing,” Morehead said. “All my colleagues work really hard in kindergarten — just to be recognized for your hard work is exciting.”
Teaching as a career for Morehead began when she babysat her own babysitter, Helen Gowins. When Gowins started her nursery, Morehead was one of her first students
“My mother (Sherri Sisk) worked at the City National Bank and she copied ‘school work’ for me to ‘learn’ with at a very young age at Ms Helen’s daycare where I had a captive audience,” she said. “Since then I knew I was destined to be a teacher, right or wrong.”
When Morehead was “of age”, Gowins hired her as a teacher. She graduated and taught at Heath Elementary School.
“I was lucky enough to get a long-term position in kindergarten there. In the year I was hired here (MES), they went to all day kindergarten. I had been teaching kindergarten in Kentucky all day. They asked me a lot of questions during my job interview and they put me in a kindergarten for the whole day.”
The 2021-22 school year marks Morehead’s 19th year not only as a teacher, but as a kindergarten teacher at MES.
“I still love it,” she said.
Morehead noted, “the last years of teaching were some of the most difficult years for anyone in education.
“I am very humbled by this recognition, but honestly I can confirm that everyone at MES deserves one too. We are a family of educators, and so are our support staff – they are educators every day too.” she continued. “I see how our most loving employees work endless hours, constantly worrying about children and even taking care of material things that are always needed – without any recognition. I am so proud to say that I work at MES together with this wonderful people who show selfless love every day I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else because they are really there for the kids That said I urge everyone to contact their child’s teacher/teachers today and simply to say, “We appreciate you.” It will mean more than you know.”