MURRAY, Ky. — Mattie Jo Smith, a Murray State University alumna and long-time educator from Benton, will be inducted into the 2018 Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame in February.
Established in 2000 by Louie B. Nunn, former governor of Kentucky, the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame annually recognizes P-12 educators throughout the state who have made a significant and positive impact in the education of young people.
“Ms. Mattie Jo Smith will join other University alumni by being inducted into the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame,” said Dr. David Whaley, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Murray State. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime honor of which Ms. Smith is fully deserving. Throughout her many years of teaching, Ms. Smith’s students and colleagues came to recognize her as an informed, caring and tenacious educator who affected the lives of thousands of students. We are indeed fortunate at Murray State to call Ms. Smith one of our own.”
Smith first earned her teaching certificate from Murray State Teachers College in 1938 and began her teaching career in a one-room school in Marshall County. She later returned to Murray State to complete her bachelor’s degree in 1957. Smith ultimately retired in 1980 from the Benton Independent School District, where she had taught junior high math and English since 1952.
Since retiring in 1980, Smith has continued to remain active in the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, serving as treasurer for the group’s first district for 20 years and as president of the Marshall County organization for 19 years. Smith has also actively volunteered at a local hospital for 30 years and has taught Sunday school for more than half a century.
“There is an aura about [Smith] that indicates that neither young nor old have reached the peak of their accomplishments,” said Ellen Fisk, a former student of Smith’s, in a published statement. “She magnifies and coveys the abiding potential in everyone. A common mantra of hers is, ‘Can’t never could!’”
Since the first class was inducted into the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame in 2008, previous inductees from Murray State include Dale Faughn and Debra Burgess, who were inducted in 2009 and 2014, respectively. Faughn graduated from Murray State with a bachelor’s degree in 1949, with a master’s degree in 1958 and with a Rank I in 1961, while Burgess graduated in 1979 with a teaching certificate in Spanish and French and again in 1994 with a Rank I.
“Today’s teachers graduating from Murray State are well versed in the current theories and practices of teaching,” Whaley said. “Not only do they know their disciplines and their pedagogy, but they also bear an innate sense of caring for their students with a focus on the whole child’s well-being.”