Jim Durham
News Bureau Director

Ashley AdkinsAnyone who went to Georgetown College or taught here around the turn of the millennium likely knew Ashley Sample (Adkins) as someone special. After all, she won the 2001 Belle of the Blue Scholarship Pageant. Perhaps you recall that momentous evening: she played piano while singing Point of Grace’s “The Wonder of It All.”

Adkins graduated summa cum laude in ’02 with a History major, Spanish minor and a Secondary Education Certificate. Her 3.95 GPA means she almost had straight A’s. “Hey, I was more proud of that ‘B’ I got in Dr. (John) Blackburn’s Chemistry class as a freshman than anything,” she recalled this week. “I worked hard for that!”

Teaching Social Studies in her hometown at Paducah Tilghman High School has been her calling for the past eight years and this summer she was recognized in a big way. Ashley Sample Adkins has been named Kentucky’s Gilder Lehrman Institute 2010 Preserve America State History Teacher of the Year.

The award, co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, Preserve America, and HISTORY™, recognizes outstanding teachers of American history across the country in each of the 50 states. Besides a cash award at a local ceremony, and an archive of books and other resources presented in her honor to her school, she is eligible for the National History Teacher of the Year award to be announced in October.

Georgetown College junior Caroline Hutson, who had Adkins for AP American History at Tilghman, was thrilled – but not surprised – to hear about the honor. “Mrs. Adkins has all the qualities of the perfect teacher,” said Huston, who has changed her major to English/Secondary Education. “She’s personable with great classroom management – never letting students run over her – and she genuinely cares about students and that they understand the material.. She’s the whole package.”

One of Hutson’s favorite high school memories was going on a trip to Washington D.C. co-chaperoned by Adkins. “I loved getting to learn outside the classroom with her,” she said.

Here is what Adkins wrote in an e-mail about her love for teaching History:

“I’m passionate about the subject matter and I love the critical thinking skills it develops in high school students. In society today it is of the utmost importance that students can think critically and solve problems. History is a subject that gives you that skill set for thinking. It also gives kids a sense of where they come from and I think that helps them in those crucial few years before they move out on their own.

I would like to think the reason I won is because I am passionate about history and how it can help students. My classroom is not a sit-and-lecture classroom. I’m always trying to find new ways to approach and deliver the content that stretches me, as a teacher, and my students, as learners.

“I’m a hands-on teacher, not a name and date, drill ’em and kill ’em teacher. For example in the last year my students (at different levels) toured Washington D.C. (literally), recreated Ellis Island and simulated the immigrant experience, simulated the trenches in WWI, created a silent museum on the American West based totally on their own interests, interviewed a survivor of the blitz during WWII via Skype and then compared that to the experiences of people they knew on the American home front, ‘sat’ in the seats of the crew of the Hunley submarine and solved the mystery of why it sunk, and debated if the United States had achieved it’s founding ideals.

“I try to make my classroom a thinking classroom and an active classroom. I am constantly changing the way I do things and deliver information to students to better fit the group I am working with.

“I hope that I won because I conveyed that passion to the judging panel, not because I was the only one that completed the application for the award.”

Her advice to every student who passes through the hallowed halls of Georgetown College: Find your passion!
Ashley Sample Adkins is married to Bill Adkins, also class of 2002. They have two little girls – Elena, 4, and Caroline, 1.