Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus, Tennerton Elementary School Principal Tristen Gray and Tennerton Elementary fourth-grade students give a thumbs up to Karen Leigh, center, at the school Wednesday. Leigh was named the West Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Teacher of the Year, and will represent Tennerton Elementary School, Upshur County and West Virginia at the National Conference in Tampa, Florida in April.

State physical education teacher of the year is one of Upshur County’s own!

TENNERTON – An Upshur County physical education teacher has been named the West Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Teacher of the Year.

Tennerton Elementary School physical education teacher Karen Leigh, who has worked in the Upshur County school system for 24 years, accepted the award at the end of October in Charleston during the group’s state conference.

On Wednesday, Leigh’s students and colleagues celebrated her success at the school.

Leigh said she loves her job.

“I get to play all day,” Leigh said with a laugh. “I’m always active, I get to move with the kids, and I get to play and try new games. My goal in working with the students is to keep them moving, active and do what is best for them. I want to see my students play, have a good time and be involved.”

Leigh is now in the running for the National Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Teacher of the Year and will represent West Virginia, Upshur County and Tennerton Elementary School.

The winner of the National Teacher of the Year will be announced during the National Conference in April 2019 in Tampa, Florida.

In her 24 years employed with Upshur County Schools, Leigh has worked with kids at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Rock Cave Elementary, Washington District Elementary and Tennerton Elementary schools.

A press release from Upshur County Schools said Leigh is not only busy as a physical education teacher at Tennerton Elementary School, but also noted she displays a strong dedication to her community.

She serves as the Summer Basketball Program assistant and planning coordinator for the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band. She’s also a volunteer with Buckhannon-Upshur High School track and field, a volunteer with the off-season basketball program, an autism mentor and an Upshur County CERT member.

Think that’s all Leigh does? Think again. In addition, she’s vice president of the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Buckhannon.

Among numerous professional affiliations, she fills the roles of coordinator for Jump Rope for Heart, coordinator for Hoops for Heart, Cooperating Teacher for Physical Education College Students and director of Upshur County Rachel’s Challenge Field Day.

Dr. Sara Stankus, superintendent of Upshur County Schools, said everyone is proud of Leigh.

“To earn this recognition at the state level reflects excellence in her teaching approach as well as her professional growth and development,” Stankus said. “Mrs. Leigh has served the families of Upshur County for 24 years. We understand that physical education teachers must be good in the classroom, but they also have to be able to work with parents and other educators. Great physical education teachers like Leigh have a range of skills beyond knowing sports including interpersonal skills, creativity and more.

“We are blessed in Upshur County to have a wonderful physical education program and excellent, hardworking educators,” Stankus added. “Currently, we have a physical education teacher in each of our elementary schools.”

Tennerton Elementary School Principal Tristen Gray offered congratulations to Leigh for her award.

“Mrs. Leigh is the kind of teacher that comes to work, does her job and never asks for recognition,” he said. “The thing about her is that she does so much behind the scenes – not just at Tennerton, but for the Upshur County Schools. People would be amazed. She’s always doing something to help the kids of this school and this county.”

Leigh said when she learned she won the award, she was shocked.

“I want to thank everyone for their support,” Leigh said. “I especially want to thank the kids because they have been amazing. The kids are what makes this job so special.”



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