GLASGOW, Ky. – When Sharon Mattingly was a student at Barren County High School, education was about the only career she wouldn’t consider. Even if she did, she certainly wasn’t going to teach foreign language.
Mattingly’s mother, Joan Coomer, led the foreign language department for several years at the school before she retired in the early 2000s. Mattingly’s father also served as head principal at Barren County High School throughout the first decade of its existence.
Then something happened. That something is what Mattingly calls “life.”
Mattingly eventually followed her mother’s footsteps and pursued not only education but foreign language. She taught in Windsor, North Carolina for the first 10 years of her career. After spending several years in Bertie County, the Mattingly family moved back home to Kentucky where they’ve spent the last several years.
Mattingly has taught Spanish at Barren County High School since 1994, and currently manages the foreign language department. She also sponsors BCHS’s Foreign Language Club and the Alfonso el Sabio chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica.
It’s years of dedication to the profession that recently earned Mattingly the Kentucky World Language Association Lifetime Achievement Award. The Barren County Board of Education also recognized Mattingly at its Nov. 14 meeting, just months after the state organization honored her.
She said she became involved in KWLA after her mother “insisted” she join.
“When I was in North Carolina, beginning my teaching career, she was very insistent that I needed to go and attend the one that we had in North Carolina,” Mattingly said. “Even if I had to do it on my own money, it was very important that I do that. Even when I came back to Kentucky, it transitioned very easily back into the one here in Kentucky.”
Coomer was instrumental in starting KCTFL, the preceding organization to KWLA, according to Mattingly.
She became a member of the KWLA leadership team in 1998 and went on to serve as president two times, vice president and secretary twice. She continued to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the KWLA Awards Luncheon years later. Throughout her time with the organization Mattingly said she’s been able to serve outside of the classroom.
“The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual of the world language profession who has demonstrated long-term achievement and service to KWLA and to the profession – locally, statewide, regionally, and/or nationally,” according to the KWLA website.
If serving her alma mater hasn’t been enough, Mattingly’s time in North Carolina proved her capability to make any classroom situation favorable for students.
She said she worked in one of the poorest counties in the state, making any form of education difficult. Mattingly embarked on a greater challenge and taught Spanish to some students who she said hadn’t left the county.
“Literally everywhere we travelled – my father used to say we brought all the trash of Mexico home with us because that is what you had to show, ‘look this is real Spanish. It’s not just a language I made up, this is what it really is.’”
Teaching foreign language has blessed Mattingly in different ways, but she said receiving the KWLA Lifetime Achievement award ranks at the top.
“Other people don’t know,” Mattingly said. “People come to my room. They might wander in. They don’t have a clue if I’m doing something good or not. If I’m speaking Spanish and the students seem to nod, I must be a good teacher.”
“That’s definitely a part of it, but they don’t know if I’m using good pedagogy, or whatever. But to be recognized by your peers for a lifetime of work was a very rich blessing.”
Overall, Mattingly said becoming a foreign language educator was a good choice. For her, it’s been a “good career.”
Mattingly continues to invest in foreign language study as an Advanced Placement Spanish teacher and a regular participant in Western Kentucky University’s Modern Language Department workshops.
She has also received awards including Excellence in Teaching, KWLA and BCHS Teacher of the Year, Governor’s Scholars Teacher Impact Day, Most Influential Teacher by Who’s Who Students and the National Honor Roll, Salute to Good Character, and Top of the Heap.