‘Advocacy is about all of us’: Kentucky Teacher of the Year presents at PCAL Cultural Enhancement Series


Sean McInnis

Willie Carver, the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and Ambassador to the Kentucky Department of Education, speaks during a talk as part of the PCAL Cultural Enhancement Series on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in Jody Richards Hall.

Bailey Reed, News reporter

Students welcomed Willie Carver, Kentucky 2022 Teacher of The Year, on Tuesday, March 28 at 5 p.m. to Jody Richards Hall auditorium with thunderous applause and acclamation.  

Carver is a teacher, author, poet and advocate for human rights, focusing on the rights of people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community, and understanding in the classroom. 

Carver is a gay man who left his former teaching job, as he faced workplace discrimination.  He formerly taught at Montgomery County High School, where people accused him, as well as the student club he sponsored, “Open Light”, a student run LGBTQ group, of grooming young students.  

Carver now works at the University of Kentucky as an academic advisor to students in the Gatton College of Business and Academics. He has also published a book called “Gay Poems for Red States.”

Carver explained that poetry was a coping mechanism for the hatred he previously experienced. 

“I would die on the spot if I didn’t write,” Carver said.

Additionally, Carver described his process with defining advocacy. 

“Advocacy is calling out into the darkness and believing you will be heard,” Carver said. “Advocacy is about all of us.” 

Carver encouraged activism by encouraging students, saying “activism is much more possible than we think it is.” 

“The universe wants you to succeed,” Carver said, quoting RuPaul, an American drag queen. 

He also explained the importance of speaking out in one simple phrase: “silence is death.”

In his closing remarks, Carver reminded people to be strong in themselves. 

“I am gay, and I am strong,” Carver said.

News reporter Bailey Reed can be reached at [email protected].