by Brad Duncan
Since 1998, Mary Ann Vimont has overseen a program that has honored nearly 1,900 educators throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky and across the United States. The idea was born one day when she visited a local school where she saw a large group of the school’s students sitting on the floor listening to then-University of Kentucky Head Basketball Coach Tubby Smith. Coach Smith told the students how important education and their teachers were and that if they needed anything, they could go to them. He said that they would make a difference in their lives. Vimont returned to the College of Education that day and began working on the first Teachers Who Made a Difference Program.
Fifteen years later, after honoring so many meaningful educators, Vimont was honored herself for creating a program that has meant so much to so many over the years.
“I don’t do this for me,” Vimont said. “Tubby’s words those years ago stuck with me, and he was right. Teachers are important to us all, whether we know it or not. I knew we needed to come up with a way to let anyone honor those who have helped so much. But it means so much that my daughter, Kathryn, was here today. For the first time in my life, I’m speechless.”
For the 15th anniversary program, assisted for the second consecutive year by UK Women’s Head Basketball Coach Matthew Mitchell, the UK College of Education honored more than 150 educators from 12 states for the significant influence they have had in the lives of their students.
“The University of Kentucky College of Education prides itself on preparing great teachers,” Vimont added. “As part of our mission, we also think it is important to honor those teachers who are making a difference in the lives of their students, here in Kentucky and across the country.”
Teachers Who Made a Difference is not a competition. Each year, all submissions are accepted up to a predetermined limit with each being honored that year. Also each year, the program is assisted by a spokesperson who helps get the word out. In the past, Dermontti Dawson, Tubby Smith, former UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr., Kyle Macy, Dan and Cheri Issel, and UK Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari have led the charge.
Educators were invited to a breakfast reception and program at the UK Student Center Great Hall and Center Theater. Entertainment was provided by the cast of Les Miserables from the School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington, Ky. Honorees and their guests also were treated to remarks from UK President Eli Capilouto and Coach Mitchell. The program was rounded out by the recognition of the honorees and the presentation of certificates to those in attendance.
If you are interested in nominating a teacher for the 2014 program, submissions will be accepted beginning in December 2013 at education.uky.edu/twmad.