Rick Rafferty, Highlands Middle School Modern World Cultures Teacher, has been nominated for Kentucky Teacher of the Year. Rafferty is a long-time resident of Fort Thomas and has taught in the district for 18 years.
"I am certainly honored, but also a bit embarrassed and a lot humbled," Rafferty said about being nominated, adding that he didn't know who nominated him. "When I first received the e-mail notifying me of my nomination I wasn't going to apply. I didn't want attention drawn to myself. I finally told my principal (Mark Goetz) about it and he told me I had to apply. He convinced me I had an obligation to the person who nominated me. The truth is there are multiple teachers in my building and, even on my team, who are just as worthy of the recognition as me."
Superintendent Gene Kirchner said that Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Ginger Webb nominated Rafferty with Kirchner's blessing. In need of support letters, Goetz, former HMS principal, and Ruth Moyer Principal Dawn Laber (formerly HMS assistant principal) obliged.
“Mr. Rafferty lives in the community and believes that it takes the entire community to build a strong foundation for future success," Dr. Laber said in her letter. "He shows this through his dedication to service learning and by teaching his students that we are a small part of a big plan. He has taken a leadership role in a program called Prepare Affair. This program allows him to encourage students and adults from our area to give to others. He teaches by example even when he is not in the classroom setting."
Goetz agreed and added that Rafferty is one of the finest educators he's worked with in his 30 years. "Rick has been elected to the Highlands Middle School Site Based Decision Making Council many times," said Goetz. "He never seeks the position, but is asked by his peers to be a part of the leadership of our school because of his decision making and integrity. Simply said, Rick Rafferty is as good a person that you will ever meet and terrific educator. He loves his family and he is a solid friend to many. He is kind, ethical, diligent and well-grounded."
Highlands parents seem to be happy about the nomination. "Both of my boys have had Mr.Rafferty and have said he is an all time favorite," said Tonya Tierney, mother of a high school and middle school students."To have them come home with stories and talking about his class and doing things for others was an exciting change for me to see in my kids. I'll always be grateful for the positive impact he had on my kids and our school system is fortunate to have him."
Carole Lukjan's three girls also admire Rafferty and she appreciates that he gives the students a chance to volunteer for People Working Cooperatively each year. "While all of the girls are really good students, I was very impressed when for a presentation, the students were permitted to work in a way that had meaning for them. Karolyn was able to do hers as an art project."
Rafferty hasn't always been a teacher. He taught one year of high school immediately after college graduation."I felt I wasn't mature enough to be a high school teacher and moved into the business world for about 20 years," he said, adding both of his parents are teachers. "But, my maternal grandmother is the one who instilled in me the belief that teachers have the most important job in our society. As a result, I always knew I would be a teacher."
Working in the business world gave him a different perspective. "Not only did I want to educate students about my subject, but I wanted to shape their character and impact the world," Rafferty said. "I tell my parents I am not teaching them to be ready for the seventh grade, that will surely happen, but I'm also trying to teach them to be ready for when they are 24 and trying to enter the work world."
Rafferty also want to develop servants who impact their community and the world. Service and character are discussed regularly in the classroom. "In fact, I give extra credit each quarter to people who perform community service. I organize service opportunities like Prepare Affair which has had more than 100 volunteers for about 10 years. For the last five years we have been partnering with a charity who serves in Kenya and we've built schools with them. Frankly, I love my subject because it connects my students to the world and allows them to see their place in it. But, the opportunity to impact the local community and world are the bigger reasons why I teach."
Since 2001, Ashland Inc. and the Kentucky Department of Education have recognized outstanding Kentucky teachers. Rafferty is one of 24 - eight elementary teachers, eight middle school teachers and eight high school teachers - in the running for Kentucky Teacher of the Year. Three teachers at each level will be observed. One teacher at each level will be chosen as Teacher of the Year. One of those three will be chosen as Kentucky Teacher of the Year and announced in October.
Laber added that the Fort Thomas Independent School District is lucky to have Rafferty as a teacher. "He provides life lessons which build character and confidence in young people."