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KEA Teacher of the Year and alum Missy Jenkins has a heart for helping students  

embedded-news-missy-jenkins.webpLong before Morehead State alum Missy Jenkins (Class of 2003, 2008) became a science teacher at Rowan County Senior High School (RCSHS), she was holding class much differently.  

The first class she ever conducted wasn't in a schoolhouse. It was in her family's smokehouse in Greenup County, teaching lessons to her stuffed animals as a little girl. Back then, she couldn't have predicted becoming a fixture at RCSHS for nearly two decades, let alone receiving the honor of the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) 2023 Teacher of the Year.  

One thing Jenkins did figure out at an early age was her calling.  

"I think I'm just a teacher at heart," she said.  

The combination of being close to home and having Eagle connections through her sister Tamara Mulkey (Class of 1999) and Aunt Judy Brown (Class of 1970), she enrolled at MSU as an undecided major. As she began taking various biology courses, she shifted her focus to earning a bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a secondary teaching endorsement. She also met her husband, Jason Jenkins (Class of 2008), during their Chemistry 112 class.  

Jenkins said earning her biological sciences degree was "the most challenging but invigorating program that I've been through." However, supportive biology faculty like the late biology professor Dr. David Magrane guided Jenkins through many of these moments. 

"There were times, especially when I took the chemistry and physics components...where I was very challenged," she said. "But the passion and dedication of my professors really helped empower me to want to do better and to stay the course even though it was challenging."  

While Jenkins would later hold a full-time substitute teaching at Morgan County High School from 2003 to 2004, MSU assigned student-teaching to Jenkins at RCSHS left an impression on her due to their support, warmth, and mentorship. Jenkins was offered her current job in 2004. During her time at RCSHS, she also earned a Master of Science in Biology from MSU in 2008 and Rank I certification for science grades 8-12 in 2010. 

Currently, Jenkins teaches classes in biology, anatomy and physiology, and disease pathology (titled "Disease Detectives"). Jenkins said her primary goal as a teacher is to promote inquiry and discovery. She wants to embed a basic understanding of the natural world, how changes in science and research lead to modern advancements and how individual choices can impact the world around them.  

Part of what has helped Jenkins make her teaching so immersive and exciting for her students is the relationships she maintains with MSU and professors in the Department of Biology and Chemistry. Jenkins' students benefit from MSU instructors, who bring their expertise, instruments, and materials to enhance learning.  

"Being here and being close to this university and the relationships that allows me to have professors in the also motivates me as a teacher that I can still learn and provide that for my kids," she said.  

In addition to receiving assistance from MSU professors, Jenkins has also given her time to MSU programs throughout her teaching career. She was an educator for the University's summer Upward Bound program from 2002 to 2005 and was a teacher for the Craft Academy Blast OFF! Summer Camp in 2018.  

Throughout her 19 years as a teacher, she says the content and how she teaches it has evolved, both based on the overall science and the individual students.  

While Jenkins has high expectations for her students, she was not expecting to be named the KEA Teacher of the Year Award. The award goes to a teacher based on the criteria of professional practice, advocacy for the KEA, community engagement, attention to diversity and exercising leadership in the profession.  

"It is an extremely humbling reward. When I think about it, I get teary-eyed every time because I just do a job, but it's not just a job to me," Jenkins said. "This job is so hard. You could do it 24 hours a day and still have more to do...but you really have to be passionate and really love what you do."  

Jenkins' fascination with teaching as a child to imaginary students has grown into a very real and impactful career with an appreciation for and collaboration with MSU. She said while she was honored to receive a prestigious award from the KEA for her teaching efforts, the real reward she gets is watching her students appreciate science, find a passion they never knew they had and exceed her expectations.  

"I want to be in my room with my students, and I want to set a standard, and there is no ceiling in here. There is no ceiling, and the students get to learn, and that's what I try to do," Jenkins said. "If I can encourage other teachers to do the same thing, then I will try to do that as well."  

To learn more about programs in MSU's Ernst and Sara Volgenau College of Education, call 606-783-2162 or email Dr. April Miller, dean, at

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