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Ketchum honored by local Kiwanis Club as Outstanding Educator

Friday, April 30, 2021
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A.E. Phillips middle grades English teacher Kellye Ketchum (far left), the Ruston Kiwanis Club 2020-21 Outstanding Educator, works with students (from left) Sarah Kate Taylor, Ella Love and Addison Wood on a classroom activity.

According to Kellye Ketchum, teaching is in her DNA, so it’s no surprise that the Ruston Kiwanis Club has honored her with its 2020-21 Outstanding Educator award.

“I grew up playing school as a child in my mother’s classroom and spent endless summer hours helping her get ready for the next school year,” she said. “So teaching was something I always thought about.”

Despite those strong thoughts, Ketchum took a detour on her way to the classroom. Determined to do something else with her life, in 1997 she enrolled at Louisiana Tech University and pursued a major in nutrition. She then came face to face with her calling.

“Finishing a clinical observation in a hospital setting, I realized it was not what I was created for,” Ketchum said. “Through many hours praying and conversations with people much wiser than me, I knew my calling was education.”

That calling ultimately brought Ketchum to A.E. Phillips Laboratory School where she has earned the distinction of being spotlighted by the Kiwanis Club. For AEP Director Jenny Blalock, it’s a perfect honor.

“Kellye is very deserving of this award because she is an outstanding educator,” Blalock said. “Kellye holds students to high academic standards but also pours into their lives to make sure each feels valued by her.”

While stating she certainly wouldn’t label herself as outstanding, Ketchum appreciates the recognition. Just don’t think such honors drive what she does.

“I love my students,” Ketchum said. “The students made me fall in love with the profession. I enjoy seeing life from their perspective.”

A self-described “words person,” Ketchum teaches middle grades English while co-sponsoring the Junior National Honor Society. Noting the great conversations shared with students about life and literature, she adds “great books have a way of connecting people of all backgrounds.” But then, Ketchum herself knows a little something about different backgrounds.

“As a young teacher, I began here in Lincoln Parish and soon moved overseas to teach in Malawi, Africa,” the 12-year veteran teacher continued. “There I taught fifth grade to students from all over the world and helped organize a reading program in a village orphanage. Returning to the U.S., I taught in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at one of the top five elementary schools in the state. That was an incredible opportunity to be mentored and stretched even further as an educator.”

Close to three years ago, Ketchum returned to Ruston where she has embraced the opportunity to work alongside Louisiana Tech. While admitting she has often struggled with comparison, wasting time wishing she was more like one person or another, she has learned to recognize the challenge for what it is and keep moving forward.

“I believe God has a purpose and timing for everything in our lives,” Ketchum said. “If I have any success in the classroom it is because He has given me an opportunity to learn and grow in my profession. One of the keys to my success is learning to let go of what I can’t control and then recognizing I am limited but my God is not. By the way, that’s something I’m still learning.”

Active at The Bridge Community Church with her husband Troy and their three sons, Ketchum adds that another key to her success is finding moments throughout the day to not just laugh but laugh hard. She finds daily encouragement through laughter with colleagues, something that should help her as she continues solidifying her teaching practices and growing in her understanding of student needs.

“I’m looking forward to being at the same school for the third year in a row and having my son in my sixth grade ELA class,” Ketchum points out. “But then, I already spend a lot of time chasing after our active boys in whatever they have going on. Most days my life feels like a circus. But it’s my circus and I love it!”