A Corbin High School teacher has been named as one of the 24 outstanding Kentucky educators, and is a finalist for the 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award.
Band teacher Jimmy Corn, a 13-year veteran of the school system, was on the list of finalists released Thursday by the Kentucky Department of Education.
“I’m just really surprised that I was selected,” Cornn said.
“It gives a lot of validity not just to music education, but the impact that elective teachers have,” Cornn said of his selection.
Corbin Board of Education Chair Kim Croley, a former band mother, said it is not just about what Cornn does when the bell rings to impart book knowledge, but his effort to impart life lessons beyond the classroom.
“Jimmy Cornn is the perfect blend of teacher, mentor and encourager,” Croley said. He teachers music appreciation to students who think Beethoven is a big dog in a Disney movie and they like it!”
“He mentors his students using music lessons as life lessons in collaboration, critical thinking and creativity,” she said.
Corbin High School Principal John Crawford said one of the things that makes Cornn such an exemplary teacher is that he excels at engaging his students, whether it is in music, humanities, or as coordinator of the school systems Odyssey of the Mind program.
“He is an integral part of making Corbin High School what it is,” Crawford said of Cornn.
Melissa Shackleford, whose daughter is a member of the band, nominated Cornn for the award.
“You cant find a student, parent, or fellow educator that doesn’t love him and you will not find a more dedicated individual to his students. He is an advocate for education and the arts,” Shackleford said. “He is not only a teacher, but a friend, a big brother, a father figure, a counselor, and a mentor.”
“Nominating Mr. Cornn for Teacher of the Year was a way to show appreciation for all that he does. I know what a great educator and leader he is, the world should know as well.”
Lonnie Collins, whose daughter is now a senior at Corbin High School, has been involved in the Odyssey of the Mind program since elementary school, said the Corbin program would not be what it is without Cornn.
Collins explained that it was Cornn who has brought in other teachers, reviving the middle and elementary school programs.
“Jimmy also pushes it in Knox County with many teams coming from there to compete in the region,” Collins said.
While his daughter’s first interaction with Cornn was through Odyssey of the Mind, Collins noted she has also been involved in marching band since seventh grade.
“Jimmy has been more than a teacher. He has been a friend and mentor to her and to all of his kids!” Collins said. He is one of the most devoted teachers I have ever met.”
Cornn, who graduated from Knox Central High School, said he initially wanted to be an attorney, but changed his mind after he got a taste of teaching music during his senior year.
While serving as drum major for the band, the teacher became ill and was forced to take an extended leave of absence.
“A lot of responsibility fell on me to keep things going,” Cornn said. “It was that experience that made me decide I wanted to go into education.”
Cornn said he has a Masters Degree in administration and would like to go in that direction at some point.
Like any other job, Cornn said teaching has good days and days where you question your career path.
“When I start thinking like that, something with my students brings me back to Earth like their success in overcoming an obstacle, or even a ‘thank you’ from one of them. Those things remind me that I’m in the right place and doing the right thing,” Cornn said.
The 24 teachers will travel to Frankfort on May 20 where government officials, state dignitaries and Sam Mitchell, chief executive officer of corporate sponsor Valvoline, will honor the teachers, and recognize the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year.
From the three finalists, the Kentucky Teacher of the Year will be named and will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
“I am beyond humbled and speechless about being named one of the nine Kentucky High School Valvoline Excellence in Teaching winners,” Cornn said in a Facebook post Thursday.
“There are thousands of dedicated teachers in our state that give so much to their students daily,” he said.