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During ceremonies for winners of the ExCEL award, given for excellence in education, it’s customary in Hardin County that local recipients are honored by having the day of the ceremony named after them by Hardin Fiscal Court. Mark Roberts, the newest winner in Hardin County Schools, didn’t want to let his own special day go unnoticed.
“First of all,” Roberts began his acceptance speech, “I’d like to wish everyone a happy Mark Roberts Day,” he joked.
Roberts, a language arts teacher at J.T. Alton Middle School, was honored as the newest recipient of the ExCEL award, given by WHAS-TV, LG&E and KU to teachers who exhibit “Excellence in Classroom and Educational Leadership.”
Roberts’ speech wasn’t all punch lines. He spoke of how an illness at the age of 20 made him feel like his life hadn’t been meaningful and he wanted to change it.
“That was the scariest feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he said.
He decided educating others would be the best way to do that. He knows now he doesn’t have to wonder about what he will leave behind as his legacy, he told students in the audience.
“Every one of you know that your success or failure means something to me,” he said.
Others who know Roberts spoke about the impact he has in the classroom. Garry King, a former principal at J.T. Alton, has known Roberts for several years. He talked to students about their impressions of Roberts and their reactions to being assigned to his classroom.
“I’ll bet you that when you see his name on that schedule, you’re happy about it,” he said. They’re excited because he makes his classroom a fun environment.
“As he makes that classroom fun, he sneaks in an education,” King said.
Roberts received many gifts, including a scrapbook from his students, a Kindle Fire from co-workers and a performance of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow.” The song is one of his favorites and one he often listened to with his grandfather, with whom he was very close.
A former student, Pam Poirier, also spoke about Roberts’ impact on her as a student. Poirier now is in college and she thanked him for making a difference in her life.
“After all these years, I remember Mr. Roberts,” Poirier said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.