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  • Giselle Smith

Passion in the Classroom


At Hardin County Schools, teaching isn’t just a profession; it’s a calling that resonates

with every educator, lighting up classrooms and nurturing young minds throughout

the district. At the heart of the district’s success are dedicated educators, each of

whom have their own story of how teaching became their calling.


Kaelin Mills, an educator at Rineyville Elementary School, nurtures 5th-grade writing students on a path of academic growth.

With eight years at Rineyville and a background rooted in a lifelong passion for teaching, Kaelin holds an Elementary Education degree from Slippery Rock University and also holds a Literacy Specialist master’s degree and a Rank I in Curriculum and Instruction.

Originally from Mercer, Pennsylvania, Kaelin has embraced the diversity of the Rineyville community, appreciating the mix of military families and those who have lived in the community for generations.

Her dedication is reflected in her work as a sponsor for the school’s Beta Club, her students’ top placement in the Kentucky Summative Assessment for writing and her distinction as a runner-up for the HCS WHAS-11 ExCel Award, exemplifying her commitment to academic excellence and compassion.

"I absolutely love having the opportunity to guide students in their God-given gifts and talents into something they can use and be super proud of. Overall, my students care about one another, comfort each other, and include their peers even when they are very different in appearance and interests. A teacher’s calling is so vital to any community.”—KAELIN MILLS


Cecilia Valley Elementary School teacher Mallory Vowels ignites young minds in 5th-grade writing and social studies, embracing her second year at the school with a commitment to student success.

Elizabethtown-born, Mallory is a graduate of Central Hardin High School, and was a part of one of the first cohorts at the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center (EC3). Her calling in education led her to earn an Elementary Education degree at Western Kentucky University.

Mallory said she finds immense fulfillment in supporting her students’ discoveries and success at Cecilia Valley. She said choosing the school was a heartfelt return to her community, fostering strong bonds with students and colleagues alike. For Mallory, the essence of teaching lies in forging relationships, witnessing holistic growth, and contributing to her community beyond academics. She ardently champions teaching’s profound impact and encourages aspiring educators to embrace the profession’s calling.

“Whether you are in the field for one year or 30, you will positively impact a group

of students that the Lord knew needed you for that time in their life. To me and to

those kids who show up to see you every day, that is so huge! I will always be here to

help and support anyone who feels called towards this career.” —MALLORY VOWELS


Nathaniel Hamer recently began his inaugural year teaching grades 6 through 8 at James T. Alton Middle School, bringing with him a passion for physical education and student engagement.

A graduate of North Bullitt High School, Nathaniel earned a Bachelor of Science in Sports Administration at the University of Louisville, coupled with double minors in Communication and Exercise Science, and went on to earn a master’s degree in Teaching from the University of the Cumberlands. Throughout his career, he has served as an instructional tutor, PE teacher, and football coach for schools in various Kentucky communities.

Nathaniel said he values the life skills sports offer and said joining JTA aligns with his ethos of fostering a supportive learning environment.

With a family military background akin to many JTA students (including time spent living in the United Kingdom), Nathaniel fosters connections, and his presence at JTA shapes a community of perpetual learners.

“The opportunity to contribute to the educational journey of students in a dynamic

and engaging setting like JTA was a compelling reason for me to join the faculty. At

JTA, the most rewarding aspects have been witnessing the growth of students both

academically and personally.” —NATHANIEL HAMER

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