Class of 2017 inducted into Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame

Members of the ninth class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame were inducted March 8 in Frankfort. From left: Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Three new members of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame were inducted Wednesday (March 8) during a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

Members of the ninth class, chosen by a statewide selection committee, were Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield.

Sibert, who spent most of her 30-year career as a homebound teacher, special needs teacher and speech therapist in Laurel County, said she found satisfaction every day in helping children succeed.

“When I went to homebound I got as much satisfaction from helping the children as the parents. They were so thankful, appreciative,” she said.

Sibert, who retired in 1986, was drawn to a career in education from the age of 4 when a cousin who was a teacher lived with her family in Clay County.

“He taught me how to read and stuff, say my ABC’s,” she said. “He became one of my principals one of the first years I taught.”

Skillern, who teaches social studies at Bowling Green High School, has received numerous awards in a teaching career that has spanned more than 30 years, but he is quick to share the credit.

“As a high school teacher, I stand on the shoulder of giants,” he said. “Every preschool teacher, every elementary teacher that has laid the foundation for whenever we get those children.”

Skillern said he still enjoys making an impact on students’ lives and preparing them for the future. “From the time I walked into school, I’ve been hooked,” said Skillern, who was named the 2017 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. “It is such a dynamic day. No day has ever been the same.”

Westerfield, who taught social studies for 33 years in Daviess County schools, said he was thrilled and humbled by the Hall of Fame recognition.

“Just to be considered is an honor,” he said. “To be selected as one of the winners is mind boggling.”

Westerfield, who retired in 2002, said he was lucky to have a job that he enjoyed. “I knew from a long time ago that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had a great career. I loved it.

The 2017 class was inducted by Dr. Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, and WKU President Gary A. Ransdell.

“On behalf of everyone in Kentucky, thank you for what you have done and continue to do in our classrooms,” Dr. Ransdell said. “What a special moment. I’m proud to be part of this ceremony.”

Sen. David Givens and Rep. John Carney offered congratulations on behalf of the Kentucky Senate and House and thanked the inductees for the impact they’ve had on thousands of students and their families.

“Because of the impact you had on them, they came out a different person,” Givens said.

“Thank you for your service to your communities,” Carney said, “and most of all to the children of the Commonwealth.”

The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame was created in 2000 through a gift by late Gov. Nunn, who hoped to recognize the vital role that primary and secondary teachers in Kentucky play in the education of young people and the positive impact education has on the state’s economy. WKU was selected as the home of the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame because of its more than 100-year history in teacher education.

Nominations for the 2018 Class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame are being accepted. The deadline is July 15. For information, visit http://www.wku.edu/kythf/nominations.php

For information on the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, contact Tammy Spinks by phone at (270) 745-4664 or by email at tammy.spinks@wku.edu.

More: Video from the 2017 induction ceremony.