Education Spotlight: Lyles named among best in state

Elkhorn Elementary School music teacher Alicia Lyles leads a group of first-graders in singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” for the school’s upcoming Disney Spectacular later this month. Lyles was recently named one of only 24 recipients of the 2020 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award. (Chanda Veno | State Journal)

Music teacher Alicia Lyles hits all the right notes.

The Elkhorn Elementary School educator was recently selected as one of two dozen teachers across the commonwealth to earn the 2020 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award.

“I was honored just to be nominated,” she said in between rehearsing first-graders for the school’s upcoming spring musical — Disney Spectacular. “But the nomination is anonymous, so I don’t even know who to thank.”

Lyles was the only educator in either of the two local school districts — Franklin County and Frankfort Independent — to win the award, which is given annually. She is also one of only eight elementary teachers vying for the coveted Teacher of the Year.

Lyles has also won over her students. During a brief downtime in between rehearsing “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid” and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” first-grader Kelvin West leaned over to a State Journal reporter with an admission.

“She’s a good teacher and I really like her and music class,” he said.

When asked about her reaction to the news, Lyles said earlier that day she was preparing herself for the “thank you for participating” email, so when the notification came that she was a recipient, tears sprung from her eyes.

“A lot of schools are having to cut arts funding, so to be recognized as an arts teacher is quite an honor — not just for me but all of our arts teachers,” she added.

Elkhorn Elementary Principal Matt Osborne sings Lyles’ praises, as well, calling her truly devoted and dedicated to the students and families in the Elkhorn community.

“She goes above and beyond in everything she does,” he added. “Whenever there is a need for the students, she does everything in her power to make it happen.”

By reaching out to administrators and the PTO and holding a yearly summer music camp, Lyles, a National Board Certified teacher, has been instrumental in providing violins to students and getting new risers for school performances, and she is currently working to raise funds for a new sound system.

Lyles also encourages students and helps put on the Kentucky Choral Festival, Franklin County Schools Spring Sing, the school’s chorus, as well as Winterfest and the spring musical.

“She is giving of her time before school and after school for the students to have the opportunity to practice and prepare for these performances,” Osborne said.

The judging for the award, which included evaluating applications on the nominees’ teaching philosophies; teaching experiences; involvement in the community; and letters of recommendation from peers, students, parents, administrators and others, was conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of veteran educators in March.

“These teachers are innovators and exemplars for the teaching profession. They are models of excellence in teaching and learning, and I look forward to working with them in our mission to equip Kentucky students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in postsecondary education and training, and in the 21st century economy,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis.

The award is sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Education and Valvoline. Recipients will be honored with a May 20 luncheon with state officials in Frankfort, where the Teacher of the Year awards will be presented.

Lyles and her husband, Steve, have four children: Noah, 17; Hannah, 16; Elijah, 12; and AnnaHope, 10.

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