Making a Difference:
Rooted in Tradition

For rural counties like Monroe, KET opens doors for children.

Lewis Carter

Monroe County school superintendent

In Monroe County, tradition runs as deep as the rivers that frame it. Located in the southern part of the state at the Tennessee border, it's a county with substantial Amish and Mennonite communities; its abundant rolling countryside provides acres of green pastureland for dairy and beef cattle, which allow people to make their living in traditional ways.

Any Monroe Countian worth his salt will also tell you there's nothing like its indigenous barbecue (you can find it elsewhere, but it's still advertised as "Monroe County barbecue"), and in the same regard for tradition, Lewis Carter, the superintendent of the county school system, comes from a long line of Carter superintendents who have shepherded the area's schoolchildren since the early 20th century.

In a place as guided by tradition as Monroe County, it's no wonder Carter and most of the educators in this quiet corner of Kentucky turn to KET—another Kentucky institution with a deep connection to education—to augment their instruction and bolster resources to offer an education on par with the rest of the state.

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"KET has been a part of education in my life all the way," said Carter, who has taught and coached at every level of education in Monroe County—and even served the entire state as deputy secretary for workforce and career education with the Kentucky Education Cabinet.

"For rural counties like Monroe, KET opens doors for children by providing programs that are educational—not just cartoons," said Carter, who points out that Monroe Countians didn't even have cable access until the 1990s.

"Through the PBS Kids shows, they're able to get the basics, and then they are able to further their education through materials KET has to offer such as EncycloMedia."

That service—part of KET's extensive online resources—gives teachers like Carter's daughter, a first-grade teacher at Tompkinsville Elementary, thousands of videos, images, and other resources searchable by keyword, content area, grade level, and Kentucky academic standards.

"They can have a field trip without ever leaving their desk," said Carter. "They can travel all over the world. Those little Monroe County children can 'go' to China this afternoon if they want to and interact with the people there, all through what's available in EncycloMedia."

Carter is especially impressed by the alignment with core teaching standards that EncycloMedia affords. He emphasizes that his teachers trust that everything KET produces is reliable, thoroughly researched, and ready to be utilized in the classroom.

"Teachers can stay on the site and create assessments which relate to the standards and subject and grade level," he said. "How I would have liked to had that when I was teaching!"

This up-to-the-minute technology, Carter says, helps teachers reach students quickly, in the moment when their curious minds are focused on a new idea.

"You never know when a child is going to bring up a subject that leads to a teaching moment," he said.

"If you can keep their interest, get on that computer and pull that information up quickly, why you couldn't pay for a moment like that, because everyone in the classroom is standing, alert and ready to learn. Those little minds are wide open and curious."

As an educator with experience in adult education and workforce development, Carter says that he also appreciates KET's GED® preparation materials, which help adult students to earn their GED credential.

"As administrator for the school-to-work program for the region, I had adult education under my administration, and that's when I fell in love with KET because of its GED program," he said. "The vast majority of our program used these materials."

As Carter and other leaders in Monroe County grapple with the region's vanishing industry and high unemployment and disability rates, they realize that KET is key to ensuring its citizens are educated and ready to meet life's challenges, wherever they may take them.

"We have a good education system, and KET is a big part of it," he said. "As far as elementary schools go, our scores are fourth in the state. Our high school is number five in the state in college and career readiness."