Teacher of the Year: Bentley says students 'breathe life into me every day'
Being a language arts teacher at Huntertown Elementary School gives Angela Bentley an opportunity to inspire her students. By sharing her own story about struggling to become a good student, Huntertown's Teacher of the Year wants to instill the value of hard work in her students. Bentley says she will never forget feeling defeated when she was unable to "count out 40 cents" as a first-grader. And she will never forget the teachers who cared enough about her to foster a love of reading and learning, which allowed her to graduate near the top of her class in high school and earn a 4.0 GPA in a master's program at Georgetown College. So now, Bentley regularly reminds her students, "Reading is important. It's going to be the foundation of your education. But I'm not here to just teach you reading. I'm here to teach you how to be a better person and work hard." This passion to learn - and always work hard - came from the Pike County native's parents: a dad who worked in the coal mines and a stay-at-home mom who earned a college degree on the day her daughter graduated from high school. Knowing students today must know how to use technology if they want to have success in life, Bentley, who has a master's degree in instructional technology, shows them how to use computer tablets as a tool for research and writing projects. Asked what she likes most about being a teacher, Bentley says, "It's the kids. I absolutely love making the connections with them. They breathe life into me every day. Everything is different every day." Bentley loves teaching students because their questions "take us to so many different places" that "you don't ever get bored," she added. Bentley spent four years teaching second-graders before moving to the fourth grade. Being able to spend her school day teaching language arts makes her happy. "This is just where I shine. This is my element," says Bentley, now in her eighth year at Huntertown Elementary. Before coming to Huntertown, Bentley spent four years teaching special education students in Fayette County "and then stayed at home with my baby for five. "I got to be an at-home momma, which was wonderful," she says. When Evan, now 13 and an eighth-grader at Woodford County Middle School, was ready to start school, Bentley and Stephen, her husband of 20 years, moved here so their son could attend Huntertown Elementary. She returned to the classroom at Huntertown as a substitute teacher before agreeing to take a full-time position - doing what she was always meant to do. Bentley, who "would've loved to have had a big family," views her students as an extension of her family. She wants to give them an educational experience that she'd want for her son. "If you can get (students) to connect with you," she says, "you can take them anywhere you want them to go. And that's the beauty of teaching." (This is the fifth in a series of feature stories on Woodford County Public Schools' Teachers of the Year.)