Asbury University – Educator of the Month: Beverly DePaola

How did Beverly DePaola wind up as a fifth grade teacher at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School in Lexington? Well, it’s a long story. A lover of mystery novels, DePaola dreamed of working for the FBI. In college, she majored in police administration only to discover the FBI hired specialists, not people with her degree. At a loss, she handled purchasing and sales duties for her father’s manufacturing company in Mt. Sterling for five years. Meanwhile, the more she taught Sunday school at her church, the more she felt drawn to education. In 2006, she returned to college, earned a second bachelor’s degree, finished her student teaching and was hired at William Wells Brown Elementary in downtown Lexington. “That can be a hard school, but the kids were wonderful and I learned so much,” she said. But after one year at Brown, her position was cut because of funding. Pregnant at the time, she resolved to stay home when the second of her three daughters was born. When her daughters attended preschool, the education bug bit again, and DePaola taught at their school for nearly three years. On a whim, she applied for a full-time job at Athens-Chilesburg and was hired the same day she interviewed. Four years later, she can’t imagine working anywhere else. This year, DePaola coordinated the fifth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. In four days, the group visited all the major monuments, plus the Capital, the Smithsonian, the Newseum, Ford’s Theater, Arlington Cemetery and George Washington’s residence at Mt. Vernon. Making a memorable impression on the kids was the Holocaust Museum where the visit included a talk by a survivor. That fits with DePaola’s classwork because all students enter essays in a local writing contest named after Emilie Szekely, a Holocaust survivor who lived in Lexington. The trip helped bring that contest to life for her students, and nothing pleases DePaola more than watching students get excited about learning. “I’m passionate about what I teach,” DePaola said. “I love to get excited and see them mimic that excitement. Just today, we were talking about colonial America and I mentioned the Salem witch trials. They were so interested that we went off on a big tangent. “It makes me so happy when they want to learn more.”