Conrad Love (left), part of the Love Family McDonald’s franchise, presents Metropolis Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kendra Morehead with the second-annual McDonald’s Outstanding Educator Award. Morehead is one of six recipients from the southern Illinois-western Kentucky region. Also pictured is MES principal J.R. Conkle.

Once Kendra Morehead began helping at a local daycare center, it didn’t take her long to figure 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 to be recognized as a McDonald’s Outstanding Educator.

“Mrs. Morehead was recognized for her ultimate dedication to her students and her commitment to providing the best of education during these trying times as seen in 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 Aug. 30 through Sept. 17. Community members were asked to submit kindergarten through high school teachers who exhibit the 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 through a QR code on a bag stuffer. Love said Morehead’s name was then 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 use toward 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 throughout the year.

“Kendra is a great teacher, like so many others in Massac Unit 1,” said Superintendent Jason Hayes. “I’m really proud of all of them this year for accomplishments like this one and for all of those who go unnoticed every day in our classrooms. We are really lucky to have the staff that we have.”

MES principal J.R. Conkle has worked with Morehead for five years.

“Mrs. Morehead is an excellent teacher. She goes above and beyond to make learning fun for her students,” he said. “During the pandemic, she spearheaded the district-wide Camp Kindergarten that was seen by all kindergarten students and families in the district. It’s great to see her efforts being rewarded.”

Conkle noted Morehead is a National Board Certified teacher, a designation obtained by a small percentage of the nation’s teachers. She and Teri Russell are currently the district’s only teachers to receive the certification.

“They have to go through extensive class work, research and reflective 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, nonprofit working to advance accomplished teaching for all students. Its mission is to advance the quality of teaching and learning by: maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do; providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards; and advocating related education reform to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.

“Each teacher can choose to attempt to become National Board Certified,” Hayes said. “From what I have observed of this certification process, it is very difficult and time consuming to achieve. The board has its own set of teaching standards that are recognized by all states. This is something you have to apply for and demonstrate proof of your teaching ability through a series of videos of the teacher teaching lessons. 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 awesome,” Morehead said. “All my co-workers 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 for her own babysitter, Helen Gowins. When Gowins began her daycare, Morehead was among her first students

“My mom (Sherri Sisk) worked at City National Bank, and she would copy ‘school-work’ for me to ‘teach’ with at a very young age at Mrs. Helen’s daycare where I had a captive audience,” she said. “Ever 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 went on to get her degree, doing her student teaching at Heath Elementary School.

“I lucked into a long-term sub kindergarten position there. The year I was hired here (MES), they went to full-day kindergarten. I had taught full-day kindergarten in Kentucky. They asked me a ton of questions at my interview, and they placed me in to full-day kindergarten.”

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 few years of teaching have been some of the most trying years for everyone in education.

“I’m super humbled by this acknowledgment, but honestly, I can attest that everyone at MES deserves one, too. We are a family of educators, and that includes our support staff as well — they are educators every day, too.” she continued. “I watch our most loving staff work endless hours, worry about kids all the time and even provide material things that are needed all the time — without any acknowledgement. I’m so very proud to say I work at MES alongside these awesome people who demonstrate selfless love every day. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else because they are truly there for the kids. So with that being said, I urge everyone to reach out to their child’s teacher/teachers today and simply say, ‘We appreciate you.’ It will mean more than you know.”

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