Educator of the Month: Denise Finley

D Finley

After 37 years in the classroom, you’d think Denise Finley would have downshifted by now into a slower gear.

Downshift? No way. Finley knows only one gear — full speed ahead.

“She has been committed to kids her whole career, and she has never taken her foot off the gas,” said Carrie Paul, administrative dean at Tates Creek Elementary.

Finley, in her final year as an educator, insists she’s “going out with a bang.”

She is as passionate, dedicated and creative as the day she launched her career as a special education teacher in 1980 in West Virginia. She moved to Lexington and taught at Johnson Elementary for four years before joining Tates Creek in 1991.

Through 2012, Finley was a classroom teacher before assuming her current position as a Reading Intervention Teacher. She’s ideally suited for the position because it calls upon her special education and classroom teaching experience. She works with small groups of three to six students for 30 minutes a day to bring them up to grade level in reading. Once up to speed, students re-join their classmates, and Finley takes on another struggling student.

“I love the job because I have the freedom to dig in and figure out what’s going to work with each child,” she said. “I work to find the key that unlocks the barrier to learning.

“I also love the job because I work with all the teachers on staff.”

While attacking each day in the classroom with gusto, Finley has served or is serving as an officer for numerous professional and community organizations such as Alpha Delta Kappa, the International Honorary Woman Educators Organization; the UK College of Education; the Daughters of the American Revolution; Marshall University Big Green Foundation, and when her children were in school, the Henry Clay and Bryan Station High School Band Boosters.

“Denise is a model of professionalism,” Principal Julie Wright said. “She is an asset every day she comes to school.”

And Finley is at the right school.

“Teaching at Tates Creek Elementary has always been the right place for me,” she said. “It’s my Christian walk. I don’t have to go to another country to help those in need. I just have to drive 11 minutes to work.”

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