Blake Nutter, 29, is a full-time volunteer at Bourbon County High School, showing new students around the school, helping to monitor the cafeteria, and assisting principals and teachers.
Nutter, who has learning disabilities and wears an arm and leg brace, credits former Bourbon County teacher and administrator Alden Meade with helping him learn how to play an integral role at the school by naming him boys' basketball manager when Nutter was a student in special education classes.
Nutter nominated Meade, who was among 155 current and former educators honored Saturday as part of the Teachers Who Made a Difference Program at the University of Kentucky College of Education.
The two maintained their friendship even after Nutter graduated in 2004 and Meade left Bourbon County High to become the junior high principal at Lexington Christian Academy.
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"He's always been there to take care of me and look after me," said Nutter.
The Teachers Who Made a Difference program, which has honored teachers for 17 years, does not select winners from a pool of nominees. Rather, the College of Education created the program to provide individuals with a means to express thanks to educators who have had an impact on their lives. Honorees may be from anywhere and may be teachers, principals, coaches or professors, said UK spokeswoman Whitney Harder.
Meade said he was teaching and coaching boys' basketball at Bourbon County High when he met Nutter, then a freshman.
"We wanted to get him involved in school in some way, so we had him help us out with basketball," said Meade.
Nutter did everything from help with uniforms to sweep the floor, said Meade.
When Meade went into administration, Nutter continued to help him.
"He acted like he was assistant principal," said Meade, chuckling.
Nutter said he could count on Meade. "If I had a problem I could go and talk to him about it," said Nutter.
And Meade said he made sure that Nutter got to go on the senior trip, a cruise to the Bahamas.
Meade said one of the hardest things he ever did was telling Nutter that Meade was transferring to Lexington Christian Academy.
"We both cried," said Meade.
Current Bourbon County High assistant principal Brian Hodge said Nutter continues to be "a really big help on a day-to-day basis" at the school.
Jeannine Schaeffer nominated Tates Creek High principal Sam Meaux. He was a teacher when her oldest son attended the Lexington school and was principal when her second and third sons attended. Her second son and friends approached Meaux with the idea of a lacrosse team as a club sport in 2005.
On her nomination form, Schaeffer wrote, "Mr. Meaux would be the first to tell you that he doesn't know much about sports — what he does know is kids."
He used the team as an outreach method and another way to reach them with their grades and behavior. After Tates Creek established the team, other schools followed, she said.
Bill Bradley of Lexington nominated Keith Lindsey, his teacher at SCAPA in Lexington. This is what Bill wrote on the nomination form:
"My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Lindsey, makes learning fun. He is very visual in how he teaches. He even has a buffalo head in his classroom. Mr. Lindsey is always willing to help us. I really like that he believes in me, and he tells our class that hard work is very important, even more important than just being smart. I wish I could have him as my teacher in 6th, 7th and 8th grade too!"