"It's a wonderful award, and I am really honored to receive it," said Longwill. "But my teaching colleague, Jennifer Cox, is at least half the reason I received the award. She and I created, designed and developed the special program, which I believe is the focal point of this recognition, together."
Longwill was referring to a special off-campus dropout prevention program in the Jessamine system that she and Cox put together and implemented in 2001 called "Wide Open Spaces." In 2002, the alternative program for troubled students was moved to the Providence School, an old building that the district renovated.
"Our program targets students with a high risk of dropping out, and our goal is to do what we can through intensive work with each and every child to keep them in school," she said.
The type of students that Longwill and Cox deal with have a variety of problems, she said.
"There's a lot more going on with these kids than just one or two issues," said Longwill. "Their reading levels are significantly below grade level. They have poor attendance. They have behavioral and developmental problems and disabilities."
Longwill grew up in eastern Kentucky, graduating from Paintsville High School. Following her graduation with a bachelor of arts degree in education from the University of Kentucky, she landed her first teaching job at Danville High where she taught students with moderate to severe disabilities.
In 1998 Longwill was hired by East Jessamine County High School where she also taught students with moderate to severe disabilities. The next year she joined the collaborative and resource special education program in which she worked with East Jessamine freshmen with a variety of problems. Two years later, she and Cox developed the special dropout prevention program they oversee today.
Now in her 10th year of teaching, Longwill said she has enjoyed teaching and found it to be both challenging and rewarding. However, this will be her last year as a teacher.
"While I've only been teaching for 10 years, I had an idea of how demanding the profession could be from observing my mother (Nancy Reed), who taught when I was growing up and still teaches, now in the Madison County school district," she said.
"I knew when I began my own teaching career, I wouldn't be doing it for 30 years. I wanted to work as hard as I could for a certain amount of time and then leave, like they say in sports, on top of my game and not suffer burn-out," said Longwill, who said she puts in 12-hour work days, five days a week.
So, at the end of this school year, Longwill will enter law school. She said she has not decided on a specialization, although she is looking at marriage and family law, sports management law, and tax law as possibilities.
Longwill and her husband, Rob, a Danville native who is a personal trainer, live on Sarah Lane in Wandering Hills near Parksville.