Two WKU Alumni included in 2017 Class of Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame
WKU is proudly represented in the ninth class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, as two of the three inductees are WKU alumni. Ron Skillern (’82) and Joe Westerfield (’71) were inducted on March 8 during a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.
Ron Skillern (’82)
Skillern, who teaches Social Studies at Bowling Green High School in Bowling Green, Ky., has received numerous awards in a teaching career that has spanned more than 30 years, but he is quick to share the credit.
“As a high school teacher, I stand on the shoulder of giants,” he said. “Every preschool teacher, every elementary teacher that has laid the foundation for whenever we get those children.”
A native of Bowling Green, Skillern has led an interesting and influential career. He received his B.A. in History and Political Science from WKU in 1978, and he went on to receive his M.A. in Education from Vanderbilt University in 1984 and his Rank 1 in Education from WKU in 1987.
His teaching career began in 1985 at Warren Central High School, where he taught 10th-12th grade Social Studies. Skillern then moved to Greenwood High School, teaching 10th-12th grade Social Studies. Also during this time, in 1992, Skillern began teaching a three-week intensive course in the summers for students in seventh-10th grades, titled Nazi Germany & the Holocaust, through The Center for Gifted Studies’ V.A.M.P.Y. program (The Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth). He has continued to teach this summer course to this day. Skillern began teaching 10th-12th grade social studies at Bowling Green High School in 1996.
Skillern has received many awards and recognitions over the years, including the Governors Scholars Program “Outstanding Educator Award” (numerous years), 1988 Teacher of the Year for Warren County Schools, 1997 Teacher of the Year at Bowling Green High School, a Distinguished Alumni Summit Award from WKU and The Center for Gifted Studies in 2015, and was also named 2017 Kentucky Teacher of the Year by Valvoline, Inc. and the Kentucky Department of Education.
Skillern said he still enjoys making an impact on students’ lives and preparing them for the future. “From the time I walked into school, I’ve been hooked,” he said. “It is such a dynamic day. No day has ever been the same.”
Joe Westerfield (’71)
Joe Westerfield, who taught Social Studies for 33 years in Daviess County Schools until his retirement in 2002, said he was thrilled and humbled by the Hall of Fame recognition.
“Just to be considered is an honor,” he said. “To be selected as one of the winners is mind boggling.”
A native Hartford, Ky., and a resident of Owensboro, Ky., Westerfield has been, and continues to be, extremely active in political forums and activism, serving on various related committees and registering more than 5,000 students to vote. Westerfield earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1969 before earning his master’s degree from WKU in 1971 and his Administration Rank 1 from WKU in 1973
He began his teaching career in 1969 as a seventh and eighth grade Social Studies teacher at Daviess County Junior High, where he remained until 1973. From 1973-2002, he taught 11th grade U.S. History and 12th grade American Government at Apollo High School, with the exception of 1984-1985, when he served as Director of Instructional Support with the Kentucky Department of Education. At Apollo, Westerfield served as the Social Studies Department Chairman, was a member of its site-based council and sponsored many different clubs.
Westerfield also served four years as the Congressional District Contact Team Person for the National Education Association in the 2nd District, and was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Federal Funding for Education. Among his many awards and honors, he was chosen in 2004 as the winner of the Liberty Bell Award, which is given each year by local bar associations in conjunction with Law Day to honor outstanding citizens within the local community.
Westerfield acknowledged that he was lucky to have a job that he enjoyed. “I knew from a long time ago that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had a great career. I loved it.”
About the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame
The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame was created in 2000 through a gift by late Gov. Nunn, who hoped to recognize the vital role that primary and secondary teachers in Kentucky play in the education of young people and the positive impact education has on the state’s economy. WKU was selected as the home of the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame because of its more than 100-year history in teacher education.
Nominations for the 2018 Class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame are currently being accepted. The deadline is July 15. For information, visit http://www.wku.edu/kythf/nominations.php