Rose Thrush knows in her bones the best fit for her in a career that spans 26 years is the kindergarten classroom at Simmons Elementary in Versailles, and to arrive there it’s been quite a journey – one that began in Kentucky with stops in Memphis, Virginia and the U.S. Army. Raised in Western Kentucky, Thrush studied music in college for three years before she enlisted in the Army and auditioned for the Army Band as a saxophone player. She spent her three year hitch entertaining the troops across the country.After her discharge,Thrush continued as an Army performer, in the National Guard, for three years while she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.Why education? Thank Thrush’s sixth grade teacher. “I was a handful as a child, but Gwen Strader saw something redeeming in me,” Thrush said. “She believed in me and she changed the whole direction of my life. She is my inspiration.” After teaching stops in Tennessee and then Virginia, Thrush returned to Kentucky when her father, who lived in Lexington, took ill. Thrush found a home at Simmons Elementary in kindergarten. Why is kindergarten so special? “Oh my,” she said. “Everything is so new to the students. They think they’re playing and having fun while they’re actually learning so much… And I get to be the one to teach them to read. That’s just amazing.” The Teacher of the Year at Simmons in 2012, Thrush presents students with developmentally appropriate activities in a classroom with no desks. A large rug covers the floor, six computers face one wall and kidney-shaped tables stand in each corner of the room. In a class of 20 where only half the students are native English speakers, Thrush designs individual lessons for each child. How can she be 20 places at once? With help from dedicated volunteers. Thrush has recruited a small army of teacher/volunteers – from local high school students to retired professionals like 84-year-old Bob Quisenberry who works with students every day. Other volunteers include Sally Cochran, Penny Deaton, Emily Fryer, Elin Smith and Thrush’s aunt, Donna West. “Rose is a passionate, dedicated teacher and an expert in early learning,” Simmons Principal Tiffany Cook said. “She uses those volunteers in effective ways, matching lessons with the needs of each student… She loves those students like they are her own.”
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