By Samantha Swindler / Managing Editor
The Bush Elementary teacher who was killed in a car crash last month was honored Thursday as Laurel County’s High School Teacher of the Year.
The monetary prize with her award was given to a non-profit organization, established by friends and co-workers in her memory.
Elizabeth Denman, 31, of Big Creek, died March 11 after a pickup truck, driven by 33-year-old Ronnie G. Hacker of McKee, crossed the center lane on Kentucky 11 in Clay County and struck Denman’s sedan head-on.
Both Denman and Hacker, who was believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, were pronounced dead at the scene.
After Denman’s death, Bush Elementary Principal Lisa Sibert was given the sober task of clearing out her desk. There, Sibert found letters nominating Denman for Laurel County’s Teacher of the Year.
“Her kids had nominated her, and she hadn’t turned them in. So when I was cleaning her desk out, I saw them there, and they were due the next day,” Sibert said. “I doubt that she would have ever given them to me.”
Sibert sent the letters to the nominating committee of the London-Laurel Chamber of Commerce, and during an awards banquet Thursday night, Sibert accepted Denman’s award on behalf of the school.
Denman was in her seventh year of teaching at Bush Elementary. She taught math to all of Bush’s roughly 75 fourth-graders, and also taught the Student Technology Leadership Program for every grade level. She grew up in Big Creek in Clay County, where her parents ran the Joy Center, a community outreach program in the former Big Creek Elementary school building.
Denman’s High School Teacher of the Year award came with a $1,000 prize for the school, which Sibert asked be donated to Beth’s Blessings, a non-profit created to raise money for the three organizations Beth herself supported during her life.
Three Bush Elementary teachers serve on the board of Beth’s Blessings, which was created about three weeks ago.
“When it happened, I told our staff, we will remember Beth forever, but people won’t unless we do this right now,” Sibert said of the non-profit. “There’s a reason for everything, and I’ve seen people since Beth’s death who have gotten saved.”
Beth’s Blessings will support Chad’s Hope, a drug rehabilitation center in Manchester; Heart and Soul, a support center for pregnant young women; and the Joy Center, the community outreach center in Big Creek managed by Denman’s parents; as well as raise money for educational grants.
Much of the Bush Elementary staff has committed to giving monthly to Beth’s Blessings, and members of the community are invited to do so as well.
“We’re trying to get people to donate monthly,” Sibert said. “We want this to go on forever.”