Wheatley Elementary teacher named 2019 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year

Nyree Clayton-Taylor teaches creative writing through hip hop to students 

head and shoulders picture of Wheatley Elementary School teacher Nyree Clayton-Taylor

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications

A creative writing teacher from Wheatley Elementary School was named Kentucky's 2019 Elementary Teacher of the Year during a ceremony in Frankfort on Tuesday.

NyRee D. Clayton-Taylor was one of nine semifinalists selected from a group of 24 teachers who were eligible for the overall 2019 Teacher of the Year Award, as selected by Valvoline and the Kentucky Department of Education.

Kentucky Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton, Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis and Sam Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of Valvoline, were on hand to recognize the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year, as well as the 21 other teachers from across the state who were honored with 2019 Valvoline, Inc. Teacher Achievement Awards.

The top 2019 Teacher of the Year Award went to Oldham County Middle School's Jessica Duenas, who was also named Kentucky's Middle School Teacher of the Year. Tiffany Marsh from Fayette County's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School was named the 2019 Kentucky High School High School Teacher of the Year. 

teacher teaching in classroom

Clayton-Taylor received $3,000 and a customized, art-glass vase from Valvoline, Inc. She has been a teacher with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) since 1999. Prior to arriving at Wheatley six years ago, she taught at Coleridge-Taylor and Fairdale elementary schools.

"I absolutely love my job," Clayton-Taylor said in an interview with the district. "I get to teach creative writing through hip hop. We get to talk about issues and the kids get to use their reading and writing skills towards a project."

This year, her students participated in a project entitled "Using the Power of Music to Fight Gun Violence" for the 2018 WE Day Community Kentucky event on April 17. They created a rap by incorporating beat making and dancing.

"I want them to take what they have inside and use it as a vehicle for change," Clayton-Taylor said.

Three teachers stand with glass vases after being named Kentucky's teachers of the year

"The best part of my job is the kids," she said. "Coming into work and seeing their smiles, I love it when they are proud of themselves. I can help empower them to change the world right now. I want them to know that they can be the change." 

The Kentucky Teacher Achievement Awards have recognized more than 500 teachers and awarded three-quarters of a million dollars since 1988.

Judging was conducted in March by a blue-ribbon panel of veteran educators commissioned by Valvoline and the Kentucky Department of Education, many of whom have more than 25 years of teaching experience. Applications included information on the nominees’ teaching philosophies, teaching experiences and involvement in their respective communities, as well as letters of recommendation from peers, students, parents, administrators and others.

Each of the nine semi-finalists were selected in mid-April and teams of educators visited their classrooms earlier this month to view them at work and to conduct personal interviews.

A list of all 24 Teacher Achievement Award winners can be found here.

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