Teachers play a unique role in the lives of their students and their communities. Some are loved, some are hated, and some make an impact so great that the rest of the community can’t help but to recognize it.
Such is the case for Holly Bloodworth, a Murray Elementary School teacher to whom the Murray State Alumni Association awarded the 2015 Distinguished Alumni award.
Bloodworth is no stranger to awards.
In 2014, the Kentucky Department of Education awarded her the Kentucky Teacher of the Year award, recognizing Bloodworth for the years of dedication she gave to her students at Murray Elementary School, giving her the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet the nation’s leaders, including President Barack Obama.
This dedication, alongside her commitment to her community through volunteering at Playhouse at the Park and her alma mater, Murray State, is why the Alumni Association chose Bloodworth for the award, said Mark Welch, director of Community Relations for the Alumni Association.
“She certainly fits the bill,” Welch said. “We’re very excited to recognize her accomplishments.”
A South Fulton, Tenn., native, Bloodworth graduated from Murray State in 1985 with a bachelor’s of science in elementary education. She then went on to receive her master’s of science before becoming a teacher.
Bloodworth returned to Murray State last semester to teach Introduction to Education.
“I love the idea of mentoring new teachers,” Bloodworth said. “I think it’s really important for them to hear the voice of someone that’s currently in the classroom.”
Considering herself an education enthusiast, Bloodworth said she sees education as a lifetime process that happens in and out of the classroom, which is why she dedicates so much of her time to bettering the education process throughout the community.
“I don’t think of education as something that happens just here at school,” Bloodworth said. “To me, education is so much more.”
In the almost 30 years Bloodworth taught kindergarten to third grade, her dedication to early educational development spanned far beyond the classroom. She co-directs the Kentucky Reading Project alongside Jacqueline Hansen, chair of the department of early childhood and elementary education at Murray State.
Bloodworth helped organize the project 10 years ago, allowing teachers statewide to develop strategies to improve literacy levels among youth.
This year Bloodworth took on the role of reading interventionist at Murray Elementary School. While organizing book clubs for her young students, Bloodworth said her students have amazed her by just how much they can improve as students with more individualized attention.
Known locally for her heavy involvement in Playhouse at the Park, Bloodworth said she believes theater is a great tool for educating students in a variety of areas.
“I love theater,” Bloodworth said. “ I know the value of being able to speak in front of people.”
Bloodworth administrates a theater camp for local youth the last two weeks of July every year. This year’s production is “A Year With the Toad and the Frog.” Bloodworth said there is a waiting list for the camp.
Her most recent production stirred a great emotional response from the community. As part of the Penguin Project, Bloodworth directed “Annie Jr.” with a cast consisting completely of children with special needs. The production sold out every showing.
“The best thing about that was I think it helped people that came to see the production understand how much children with these challenges can do,” Bloodworth said.
Joel Ferguson, sophomore from Murray, had Bloodworth as a teacher at Murray Elementary School. Her motherly attitude toward her students separated her from her peers, he said.
“From a past students’ perspective, Mrs. Bloodworth deserves recognition for bettering and teaching the young minds of today, in a way that stands above others,” Ferguson said. ”I truly miss sitting in her class and learning from her.”
Story by Zachary Orr, Staff writer