Rearing three children, dealing with a house that burned to the ground, and facing a couple of health scares have all been challenges for Beth Banks Pennington, but none kept her from achieving her goal — earning an educational doctorate from Morehead State University.
Pennington completed the advanced study in three years and she is excited to see what doors may open for her now in the education field.
At age 42, she has worked in education her entire professional career. She is the Director of Counseling at Hazard Community and Technical College, a position she has held since Jan. 1, 2010. Prior to that, she served as HCTC’s federally-funded program Student Support Services Director.
“This degree is really something I wanted my whole life. I knew I wanted a practitioner’s degree rather than a theory degree. I am a practitioner, I wanted a degree to help me in my everyday role,” Pennington said, noting “I genuinely want to make a difference for students every day. Education has always been my passion.”
On May 11, Dr. Pennington walked across the stage to receive her Ed. D. degree at MSU. Her degree was conferred on April 11.
She vividly remembers the night of Dec. 22, 2010, when her Letcher County home caught fire with her family of five in the house. It was a devastating time for her and she was tempted to quit her doctoral work, but she knew she could never live with herself if she did.
“You can’t surrender your dreams,” she said. In her job now, many students first talk to her before enrolling. She guides them towards the proper career choice and provides the encouragement for them to never give up. Many of the students are firstgeneration college students and so she realizes how important her words can be in their first meeting.
Besides work on the college level, Pennington has worked in public schools. She has worked as a teacher and coach for the Harlan County Schools. She also has held two positions with the Carter County school system — assistant principal at East Carter High School and for three years prior to joining HCTC, principal at Heritage Elementary.
Pennington holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science with an Emphasis in Secondary Education from Pikeville College, a Master of Arts in Secondary Education and Leadership from Morehead State University, and a Master of Arts and Rank I in School Administration for Principalship in grades K-12 from Morehead State University.
In addition to those credentials, she obtained a Director of Pupil Personnel Certification from Morehead State University and a Gifted Education grades K-12 certification from Western Kentucky University.
Dr. Pennington is a graduate of Whitesburg High School. She and her husband Jon, a U.S. soldier, have three children — Kristen Brooke, 19; Matthew James 14; and Hannah 6.
She is the daughter of Billy K. and Irene Banks of Whitesburg.