• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Ms. Candy shares 'first love' and more with students

SECOND-GRADER Harper Lacefield got some help with her computer coding from library media specialist Candy Luttrell last Friday at Southside Elementary School. "I like the hugs. I like the excitement," says Luttrell of being an elementary school educator. Southside's Teacher of the Year lives in Versailles with her husband, Walter, and daughter, Samara. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Candy Luttrell enjoys nurturing a love for reading within students at Southside Elementary School. So she'll dress up like book characters - Ms. Frizzle, Book Fairy or The Cat in the Hat - to connect students with stories, and inspire them to read. "Books (were) my first love," says Luttrell, Southside's Teacher of the Year. "My mother was a librarian so I grew up in the library." She even succeeded her mom as librarian/media specialist at an elementary school in Lee County. Her father was a schools superintendent in Eastern Kentucky so both of her parents were educators - a career path she was determined not to follow. "I had big plans of never being a teacher," says Luttrell. Soon, she realized working with kids was all she wanted to do with her life. And she still doesn't care if teachers are paid less than other professionals because she appreciates being able to make a difference in the lives of elementary-age students. "I like the hugs. I like the excitement," says Luttrell. Ms. Candy - as she's known to students - embraces her many responsibilities as library media specialist at Southside. She supervises her school's student technology leadership program, a student newscast as well as other "before and after school programs," in addition to reading stories to students. Her "book talks" - a short spiel on why a book would interest them - also get students reading. And students are always excited whenever they go into her office to get a book, which "they think is the greatest thing since sliced bread," Luttrell says. Because she still has students who genuinely enjoy reading a good book, Luttrell takes pride in getting their peers to also learn why reading is vitally important no matter what they're doing in class. "I consider myself a teacher," explains Luttrell. "I have to know a little bit about all of the curriculum . because I have to build my collection (of books) around that (curriculum). I pick out computer programs to support their curriculum. I pick out materials to support their curriculum." Asked how she juggles her many responsibilities, Luttrell says she's learned how to tune out the background noise of students engaged in a variety of library activities while remaining focused on individual needs. One of her priorities has become teaching kids how to find reliable information while using the tools of technology that are available to them. "We do a lot of digital literacy . keeping them safe on the Internet," she says. Luttrell, who has degrees in teaching, administration and curriculum supervision, began her seventh year at Southside Elementary, and her 18th as a school librarian/media specialist, last month. A love for kids kept her from moving into school administration, and staying in touch with former students and being a part of their successes has also been fulfilling. Luttrell began her career at Model Laboratory School in Richmond, where she spent a year while finishing her master's degree. She spent two years at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary School in Breathitt County before returning to her native Lee County, where she spent nine years at two elementary schools. Luttrell says she only applied for jobs in Woodford County and Fort Thomas-Highlands because she wanted her only child, Samara, to have more opportunities - inside and outside of the classroom - than what she'd get in her native Lee County. "Southside had a great reputation, and I'd be with Samara," says Luttrell of coming to Woodford County schools. She knew of Southside's track record of success from her uncle and aunt, Sam Watkins and Shelia Watkins, who both worked in Woodford County schools. (This is the first in a series of feature stories on Woodford County Public Schools' Teachers of the Year.)

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