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New Superintendent Brings Experience to Allen County Schools
Travis Hamby
(by Don Meador, Allen County Schools, July 17, 2019)
 

   New Allen County School Superintendent Travis Hamby has progressed through the education ranks for over two decades, learning each step of the way. Hamby’s journey has included teaching math to middle school students, serving as an elementary school principal and later in a support role in a District, and---for the past nine years---leading Trigg County Schools as superintendent. A combined 24 years of experience has left the new Allen County superintend poised to help Allen County Schools move forward in the years to come.   

  “I grew up just outside a small town, St. Charles, Kentucky, located in Hopkins County,” Hamby noted. “Most of my family lived within a 10 to 15 minute drive, with several of my aunts and uncles literally living next door.  We were and continue to be a close knit family.”

  His family’s closeness growing up taught Hamby to treasure his own family. Married to his wife Shana for 24 years, the Hamby’s are the parents of three boys, Jaron (9), Jonah (11), and Jevan (17). He points out that his wife and his sons mean everything.  

  “My wife is my biggest supporter,” Hamby said. “I couldn’t do the job I do without her. She is the rock in my life and takes wonderful care of our boys.  Outside of my faith in God, my family is the most important thing to me. We like to do things together whether it’s just spending a quiet evening at home, having dinner out, camping, or visiting an amusement part.  We are actively involved in our church and have been attending the same church for nearly 14 years.”  

  Hamby recalls his early childhood years and, like many kids, played school at his home with his sibling. In addition, Hamby admits, that---like many kids---he struggled to learn one subject in particular.  

  “I recall in third grade, I was supposed to be learning my multiplication tables, but was having a hard time.  My mom and dad, knowing I often pretended to be a teacher had bought me a chalkboard.  My mom and dad asked me to write the multiplication facts out on my chalkboard.  My mom walked in and caught me copying the facts down rather than doing what I was supposed to be doing to get the answers.  Obviously, that didn’t go over to well.  So, it’s kind of ironic the way everything played out and that I became a math teacher.”

  Despite youthful role-playing as a teacher, Hamby points out that it was not until his days in the late 1980s at South Hopkins High School that he ultimately decided to turn his attention to teaching as a career. 

  “While I was in high school, I had a math teacher who took an interest in me and believed in me,” Hamby explained. “Her passion and love for what she was doing each and every day in teaching math inspired me.  It was in her classroom that I realized I wanted to teach high school and help kids learn math.  I wanted to do for others what she had done for me---inspire me.”

  After graduating from South Hopkins in 1990, Hamby enrolled at Murray State University and began to pursue a degree in mathematics and teacher certification. Following graduation from Murray State in 1995, Hamby returned to his roots in Hopkins County to teach math at James Madison Middle School.  

  The following year Hamby had the opportunity to move to the new high school, Hopkins County Central High School.  This was a consolidation of the high school Hamby attended, South Hopkins High School, and West Hopkins High School.  “I had the opportunity to teach alongside many of the teachers that had taught me,” Hamby recalled. “It was a lot of fun to be able to do that.”

  Asked about his teaching days, Hamby notes that he worked every day to keep students engaged, involved, and asking questions. 

  “As an educator in the classroom, I hope my kids saw my passion and energy and my giving all I had to them--not just as a teacher but also as a mentor and role model,” Hamby explained. “I wanted them to believe in themselves, believe they could be successful and do well in math.  I wanted my students to know it wasn’t just about learning math for a test, but that that they could do something with it beyond the classroom.  I worked with them to learn mathematics and also understand the “why” behind the mathematics.  I tried to create a classroom based on application, discovery and inquiry.”

  After a few years in the classroom, Hamby decided to pursue his administrative certification in hopes of becoming a school level administrator. 

  “I went back to Murray and got my administrator’s certification and started looking for opportunities to move into administration,” Hamby noted. “My first administrative job was at Todd County Middle School as an assistant principal.  It was one of the best jobs that I have ever had.  The principal had created a great learning culture and positive school climate.”

  Hamby points out that the assistant principal’s position allowed him the chance to develop and embrace the academic foundations for administrative leadership.  

  “The Todd County Middle School principal was looking for someone that would be involved in instruction,” Hamby said. “Of course, I took care of much of the discipline, but was also able to help with writing school improvement plans and working directly with teachers.  It fueled my passion for instructional leadership.  I am forever grateful to the principal for mentoring me during this time and helping me to develop those skills.”

  Four years as assistant principal paved Hamby’s path to step into a principal’s position. The opportunity came at South Todd Elementary School. 

  “Working closely with teachers at the school, we were able to experience much success,” Hamby said.   “We collectively developed a vision and were able to see the school move to the highest performing school in the District.”  

  Hamby is quick to credit the teachers with whom he worked---educators who caught a vision for student success and have been able to sustain that momentum to this day. 

  “It wasn’t about me, it was about a team we built at the school and a culture,” Hamby recollected. “They wanted to be the best and do great things for kids. They have continued to build upon that and have done tremendous work since.”

  By this time, Hamby’s aspiration was to, one day, serve as a school superintendent. To gain experience, his next stop was at the Trigg County School District’s Central Office where he served as assistant superintendent of operations and personnel beginning in July 2007.  Hamby was appointed superintendent of Trigg County Public Schools in 2010.  

  Hamby’s time as an administrator and his nine years as a superintendent has been a valuable teaching tool and provided years of hands-on experience that Hamby eagerly brings to Allen County. He notes that many lessons have been learned over the years. 

   “I have learned that no one person has all the answers,” Hamby said.” I have learned that all voices and all perspectives are so important in helping us be all we can be in a school district.  The saying we are ‘better together’ rings true.  One of the most critical voices is that of our students; their reflection about their learning experiences and what they would like to school to be like can offer tremendous insight as we work to prepare them for their future.  Additionally, I have learned the importance of engaging parents and community members in the life and culture of the school through opportunities to discuss the vision and various initiatives, to ask questions, and offer feedback.”     

  Hamby adds that gaining input from those who are on the front lines in education day-to-day is an absolute necessity; it’s where we start and what we build upon.   

  “I have a little saying that I started using in the last couple of years,” Hamby said, “When we are making decisions, we need to get those people who are the closest to the change involved in the decision.  That is whose going to be implementing it.  It’s about recognizing that if we expect change to happen and we expect things to be different, if we want things to get better, then we need to engage all people and hear their voices in helping to be able to do that.”

  Starting his role in a new community, Hamby is excited and is looking forward to hearing what people have to say. 

  “I want to actively build relationships and partnerships with all stakeholders so that we can work together to make Allen County Schools the absolute best,” Hamby explained. “I don’t have the answers but I believe that collectively we can come together, put our heads together, and begin to envision what we want for our schools. Then we can create a plan to make it reality.  We do that as we listen and learn from one another.  Listening and learning is the first thing I have to do as superintendent. It’s not coming in and listing the five things we are going to be doing in the first six months to a year, but really learning about the context, learning about our schools and community, as well as, getting to know our students, families, and staff.”

  Hamby has already started listening. In his first days on the job, Hamby met with each principal individually.  In a working Board session last week, Hamby outlined with Board members an upcoming retreat in which the Board will get a chance to hear from administrators and department heads---both designed to lay a foundation from which to build and to strengthen collaborative efforts.    

  “In meeting with principals the first week, I have already discovered that a lot of good things are happening in Allen County Schools,’ Hamby added.  “Our principals have great visions for their schools and I want to support that and work with them.  Our number one priority is working to support our kids and make sure they are college, career, and life ready when they leave Allen County-Scottsville High School.”

  “We want to create an educational experience that really empowers our students and equips them with the skills they need to be successful,” Hamby said.  “This is what every parent wants for their kids at the end of the day - to learn and be successful in life.”

    As Allen County School superintendent Travis Hamby begins the task of leading Allen County Schools, student success and vision are areas Hamby’s ponders.

   “Author John Maxwell defines success as knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others,” Hamby explained. “Part of our goal in education should be to help students find their passion and discover their interest and talents. Connecting (Maxwell’s) definition to education, student success would be for the student to discover his/her strengths and connect those to a career that will both bring them happiness in life and earn a living wage.  Then, it’s our job to help to them pursue that goal, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and dispositions they will need to be able to accomplish it, and working with them to develop the growth mindset that they need as learner.”

   In addition, Hamby adds that student success means that each student is equipped to give back.  

   “The final part of Maxwell’s definition is sowing seeds that benefit others,” Hamby said. “It should be our desire to help our students see how their gifting, talents, and skills can be utilized to help people around them and how they can be a benefit to their families and community. “Ultimately, we want students to add value to the community, to engage, be productive members of our community, and strengthen us as a whole. “

   As students seek success, Hamby is quick to note that the job of the School District must be to carefully measure their progress and look for ways to enhance the student’s journey.

   “One of the things we want to make sure of academically is that the kids are mastering the state standards,” Hamby said. “We want to pay close attention to various data points such as benchmark assessments and the ACT which we know is a gate keeper for our kids in terms of getting into college and getting financial support.  But, there are other things we have to focus on that are coupled with that---soft skills and 21st Century skills.  We often hear from employers that our kids need these skills---things such as being able to work as a productive member of a team - collaborate, communicate effectively, think and problem solve, take initiative, possess a strong work ethic and persist.  We need to help our kids with those skills that ultimately will give them a competitive edge whether they are going to college or directly into a career.”

   Hamby believes that Allen County Schools will develop a vision of the road ahead that will unify and build excitement about the future.  The development of the vision will come based on input from all stakeholders.  Hamby hopes his first 100 days on the job will start the process which will eventually lead to a co-created vision. 

   “It’s about listening, learning, and assessing the status of the District,” Hamby explained. “I will be looking at how we strengthen the things already in place to make sure we have a strong academic foundation and financial position, so that we can build upon those things.  From what I’m seeing, it’s clear there are many good and strong foundational elements in place.  I’m looking forward to working with stakeholders to create a vision that will continue to move the district forward and prepare our students for the dynamic world in which we live.”

   The vision will come with time and team work. 

   “We have to step outside our individual goals and think about collective goals,” Hamby explains. “We have to collectively explore what we want for our school system and for the graduates of Allen County Schools, specifically thinking about what it will look at five, 10, or 15 years out.  But, we have to do that together.  As we come together, a synergy will be created that will catapult Allen County Schools into the future.” 

 

 

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