JCPS teacher named Kentucky World Language Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year

Kamenetzky teaches Japanese at Eastern High School 

Elena Kamenetzky, a Japanese teacher at Eastern High School, is the 2019 recipient of the Kentucky World Language Association (KWLA) Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. She received the award Sept. 28 at the KWLA annual conference in Lexington.

Before coming to teach Japanese at Eastern High School in 2010, Ms. Kamenetzky was an assistant teacher of English at two middle schools as part of the JET Program in Achi Village, Japan from 2006 to 2009. 

Elena Kamenetzky, a Japanese teacher at Eastern High School

Kamenetzky earned her Bachelor’s in Asian Studies with minors in Education and Linguistics from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She earned her credentials for teaching Japanese, Grades K-12 through the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program from Northern Kentucky University in 2010.

In addition to teaching, she has served on the board of the Kentucky World Language Association as President of the Kentucky Association of Japanese Language Teachers, or KAJLT, from 2014 to 2016. She also has served KAJLT as vice president and treasurer as well as mentoring current and future Japanese teachers through hosting student teachers and presenting at conferences.

The list of awards and achievements won by students under her guidance is extensive: Kentucky State Japan Bowl Champions in 2015, multiple awards won in the Bluegrass Area Japanese Speech Contest from 2012-2018 and have taken home top awards in all categories of Japanese performance every year from 2013-2018 at the Kentucky World Language Showcase sponsored by KWLA. Adding to awards and achievements, her success in getting her students to experience the culture from which the Japanese language comes is also full and rich. Summer trips to Japan every two years led by Ms. Kamenetzky and arranged through the New Perspectives Japan Program facilitated by PAX Laurasian Exchange open the Japanese-speaking world to her students through experiencing firsthand cultural activities in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Fukushima.

The six other candidates for KWLA’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, who represented Kentucky chapters of professional language organizations, included:

  • Cynthia Shiroma, Latin teacher at duPont Manual High School (Jefferson County), Outstanding Latin Teacher;
  • Sandra Forster-Terrell, German Teacher at Atherton High School (Jefferson County), Outstanding German Teacher;
  • Francisco Castillo, a Social Studies and Spanish Immersion Teacher at Bryan Station Middle School (Fayette County), Outstanding Spanish Teacher;
  • Linda Froehlich, French teacher at the Sayre School (Fayette County), Outstanding French Teacher;
  • Lisa Podbilski, Chinese teacher at Louisville Collegiate School (Jefferson County), Outstanding Chinese Teacher; and
  • Yan Wang, Chinese teacher at Dixie Elementary Magnet School (Fayette County), Outstanding National Network for Early Language Learning Teacher.

Ms. Kamenetzky received the Outstanding Japanese Teacher of the Year Award before receiving the top honor as the Kentucky World Language Association’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award this past weekend. In March, she will represent Kentucky World Languages teachers at the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, which is the regional conference, and where she will be a candidate for the SCOLT regional Teacher of the Year Award. Should she win the award at the regional level, she would then advance to the national level where she would compete for the National World Languages Teacher of the Year Award, given by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This article was published on Oct. 3, 2019.

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