It is no secret that Owensboro is full of family businesses. But for four local educators, their profession isn’t a business that can be handed down from generation to generation. These women have continued their families’ “business” by carrying on a dedication to — and affinity for — shaping the minds of the community’s children.
Kristin Atwell and Allie Head
Kristin Milburn Atwell is the Assistant Principal at Deer Park Elementary School. Kristin and her cousin, Allie Head, an English teacher at Daviess County High School, are part of the fourth generation of teachers in their family. Kristin, who has been in education for 14 years, and Allie, a teacher for six years, have both followed in the footsteps of their mothers, grandmother and great grandmother.
Kristin’s mother, Liz Troutman Hollander, taught for a total of 32 years, 22 of which were in the Daviess County Public School system, before retiring. Allie’s mother, LeAnn Troutman Englert is currently in her 14th year as a teacher at College View Middle School. Ouida Baird Troutman, Liz and LeAnn’s mother, was an educator for 27 years, all of which were spent at the former Utica Elementary School. Another daughter, JoNell Troutman Clayton, has also taught for almost 30 years at both Masonville and Deer Park Elementary Schools.
But the family legacy originated with Josephine Shocklee Baird. Josephine began teaching at 19 years old in a one room schoolhouse. To earn her degree, she travelled by train from Livermore to Western Kentucky University.
Both Josephine and her daughter, Ouida, serve as inspiration for Liz and LeAnn. Liz saw what the older generations did outside the classroom and that touched her more than anything else.
“I can remember them always going the extra mile. They would deliver Christmas presents (to their students) and that was back before the days of Family Resource Centers,” Liz said. “They always had a heart for those less fortunate.”
Liz’s grandmother, Josephine, would also sew clothing for her students, even after they had moved on from her class.
Despite two previous generations of educators, Liz never felt as if it was an expectation for her to enter teaching as her own career.
“I think teaching is a calling, and early on, I heard that calling,” Liz said.
She was very cognizant of not pressuring her own daughter, Kristin, when she began college. Originally, Kristin didn’t hear the call to teach as she began college at the University of Kentucky with plans of pursuing a career in public relations; however, she soon changed her mind.
“It didn’t take long — one semester — for me to realize my heart (and bloodlines) were in teaching,” Kristin said.
Kristin loves watching students grow academically, socially and behaviorally and relishes her role in assisting the faculty and staff at Deer Park in serving their students. She, too, claims the family’s educational leaders from previous years are inspirational for her. Her mother taught her from a young age that teaching is a profession that “stems from the mind and soul of a person.”
“I am extremely and eternally grateful for the students and families who have crossed my path and the lessons I’ve learned along the way,” Kristin said.
LeAnn remembers her mother and grandmother providing milk money and Halloween costumes for their students as well.
“They found a lot of joy in their work as they taught their students,” LeAnn said.
But teaching wasn’t what LeAnn had on her mind 34 years ago. Instead she began a career as a registered nurse, which she continued for 20 years.
“Early in my nursing career, I worked with children and realized I enjoyed kids immensely. Teaching was a better path for me,” LeAnn said. “I really enjoy the relationships I form with kids and I find a great deal of satisfaction in helping them learn.”
LeAnn’s daughter, Allie remembers weekly Sunday luncheons after church.
“After lunch, my aunts would grab their lesson plan books and begin preparing for the week ahead at school,” Allie said. “Inevitably, these memories involve my grandmother and great-grandmother reflecting on their own time in the classroom. My aunts, my grandmother, and my mom committed their lives to serve others, and their actions encouraged me to do the same.”
Allie treasures sharing her passion for literature and writing with her high school students. She believes the vital skills she teaches her students, to read critically, think analytically and write well, will help them be successful in school and in their future.
“I became an educator with the hope of inspiring students; however, I quickly learned that my students would be the ones to inspire me daily,” Allie said. “Their drive to succeed and desire to overcome despite the adversity they encounter encourage me to do the same.”
Leslie Peveler and Mandy Walker
Leslie Burns Peveler and Mandy Burns Walker are sisters from a family whose name is well-known in the community’s education world. Walker is a teacher at Sutton Elementary and Peveler is principal at Highland Elementary where she previously taught. Both of their parents, Pam Sublett Burns and Ben Allen Burns, Jr. were educators, but it is Leslie and Mandy’s dad’s side of the family tree that has generations of educators on its branches.
Both women were inspired by their mother’s dedication to education. Pam wore many hats in both local school systems in her 32 years of tenure: Dean of Students, Principal and teacher in Daviess County Public Schools and, after retirement, Curriculum Coordinator and Interim Director of Hager Preschool at the Owensboro Public Schools.
Pam’s parents were the owners of Sublett’s Gift Box for over 30 years in Owensboro and were avidly involved in the community. Many aunts, uncles and cousins in her family are educators, but it was the nurturing of one teacher in particular that inspired Pam to become an educator herself.
“A teacher’s words and support are always remembered beyond the academics,” Pam said.
Ben Allen Burns, Jr. graduated from Western Kentucky University with a teaching degree in math and agriculture. Both he and his sister, Dianne Burns Mackey taught in the Daviess County School system. Dianne went on to serve on the DCPS Board of Education for many years. Ben Allen and Dianne’s parents were educators: Ben Allen Burns, Sr. who taught agriculture at Daviess County High School and Mary Ella Burns Johnson, who was a teacher at the former Sutherland Elementary School.
The generations of educators in Leslie and Mandy’s family began with their father’s uncle, Fred Taylor Burns, a teacher and Superintendent of the Daviess County Public Schools. Both Burns Elementary and Burns Middle School bear his name.
Educators have a major influence on our community’s students, whether they are the first teacher in their family or the next in a long line of teachers.
“I believe we have all been in the greatest profession possible. It is not an easy path. I still believe the rewards will not be measured in our pay but in the opportunity to touch the future,” Pam Burns said.
If that is so, these two families continue to reap that reward every generation.