GLASGOW — Sharon Mattingly has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Kentucky World Language Association.
Mattingly is a Spanish teacher at Barren County High School, where she has taught for 25 years. She has also taught dual-courses at Western Kentucky University for eight years.
KWLA is an organization composed of individuals who support, promote and advocate the teaching and learning of world languages and cultures, according to the organization's website.
The award is presented to a world language teacher who has demonstrated long-term achievement and service to KWLA and to being a world language teacher.
“It was an honor to me to be selected for the lifetime award because that is the most prestigious award that they give, because it is for a life time of work,” she said.
Mattingly's mother, Joan Coomer, who also taught Spanish at BCHS, was part of the early group that helped get KWLA started, which Mattingly said is “kind of neat.”
When asked how her mother reacted upon learning the news she had received the award, Mattingly said: “Mom was pretty excited about it.”
It was Coomer who introduced Mattingly to KWLA and served as her mentor teacher when Mattingly began teaching.
“I was in a school that did not have another Spanish teacher, so every Sunday when I called home from North Carolina was a lesson on how we teach this and how do we teach that, because I was not going to be a teacher, minus the career that happened by accident,” Mattingly said.
Her father, James Coomer, wanted her to take Spanish even though Mattingly had no interest in taking the class because her mother was the teacher.
“It was bad enough to have my dad as principal,” she said. “But my dad finagled my schedule and low and behold I got the classes I wanted, but a teacher I definitely didn't. The only spot that was open in all of Barren County High School that particular period was one miraculous spot in Spanish I.”
The joke in her family is “don't' say never,” she said.
Mattingly had always said that if she ever left Glasgow she would never come back, but “here we are,” she said.
It was her father who wanted her to get a teaching certificate, but again, Mattingly rebelled.
Rather than majoring in education, she studied business with plans of running a multi-national corporation.
In 1985, she ended up at Bertie High School in Windsor, North Carolina where she said there were no multi-national corporations. So, she became a substitute teacher.
“I was substituting and the Spanish teacher quit and everybody kept saying, 'You really need to be a Spanish teacher,'” she said.
Still, Mattingly had no desire to be a teacher.
It was while she was substituting that she had a student named Jason who was angry that his teacher had not been there that year.
“Every day he would go, 'Mrs. Mattingly, I hate you.' And I would say, 'Jason, it's OK. Have a seat,”” she said.
Mattingly had the same exchange with that student every day.
Eventually, a full-time substitute was hired for that particular class and Mattingly began substituting for other classes at the school. The student continued to visit her class and each time he would say, “Mrs. Mattingly, I hate you.”
And she would again tell him, “I know Jason. Have a seat.”
When the Spanish teacher resigned, the student came and found Mattingly and begged her to teach Spanish.
She told him, “Jason, remember, you hate me,” she said. “But he said, 'Oh, Mrs. Mattingly, when you substitute, we learn something. If I don't get into college, I can't leave here.'”
She was working for a school in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. The student told her the only he could get into college is by taking Spanish, and the only way he could leave that county was by going to college.
“So short story, I became a Spanish teacher,” Mattingly said. “But Jason is out there some where in the world doing things and never knowing how much he changed my life for sure.”
During her time at Bertie High School, Mattingly helped developed a primary and middle school Spanish program.
In 1995, she and her family returned to Barren County. During her tenure at BCHS, she has taught all levels of Spanish and has taken students to Spain four times, most recently in 2004.
Mattingly became a member of KWLA in 1998 and has served twice as president and held other distinguished office positions for a similar organization.
At the state level, she has represented Kentucky at the Central States Conference as the KWLA Teacher of the Year, among many other things.
Amy Irwin, principal of BCHS, said: “Mrs. Mattingly is a shining example of the impact one teacher can make on students and on the teaching profession as a whole. During her years at Barren County High School, Mrs. Mattingly has demonstrated tremendous leadership on numerous fronts, whether it be in the classroom teaching Spanish, piloting AP and dual credit opportunities, or participating and leading community service as well as state and national immersive learning experiences for students.
“We are so proud to call Mrs. Sharon Mattingly our own, and applaud her on receiving the KWLA Lifetime Achievement Award.”