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Army veteran teacher helps students ‘be the model’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — May’s Golden Apple Award winner is a hero inside and outside the classroom.

Miss Kourtney Liggett, an Army veteran from Speedway, uses Marvel movies to help motivate her fifth grade students in Wayne Township.

Students at Chapelwood Elementary School say Liggett’s motto is “be the model.” With that phrase, she helps students lead the way, every day.

WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station, and every month, News 8 honors outstanding teachers with the Golden Apple Award. The Golden Apple Award comes with a trophy, a $500 school supply shopping spree at Teachers’ Treasures, and a special video featuring students and staff.

Miss Kourtney Liggett – WISH-TV photo

At Chapelwood Elementary School, there are many marvelous educators and plenty of characters in class. But, one superhero teacher is the marvel of them all.

“Miss Liggett – she is a character who likes Marvel a lot. She likes superheroes and she is really nice to us,” 11-year-old Mario Martin said. 

Martin, Lewis Fuller, and Helen Fatokun are all fifth grade students in Liggett’s reading and writing class. 

“She has superheroes – like Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America – like almost all the superheroes in her classroom,” Martin said. 

“She is really into the Marvel Universe, she is a really cool teacher. She appreciates our accomplishments and we get prizes,” Fuller said.

“Every single Friday, if we get all five’s, in the classroom, we have something called a ‘Friday treat.’ Sometimes, we get to pick brownies. Anything we want and she will buy it, ” Fatokun said.

Students say Liggett is as legendary as she is generous. From Friday treats to red carpet writing treatment, these kids get the marvelous superhero experience.

“I walked in the classroom I was like, ‘whoa, Miss Ligget, this is so cute and cool at the same time,’” Fatokun said.

She always makes sure her fifth grade students know they’re what’s most important. Therefore, she does whatever it takes – even YouTube dances and lobster costumes, to get students excited about reading and writing.

“One time we were doing this book about a substitute teacher. She dressed up for spirit week, she loves spirit week, so she dressed up as the evil character,” Martin said.

You can see Liggett’s spirit in every student, and the lessons they’re learning.

“She always says, ‘be the model – be the leader, don’t be a follower,’” Fuller said.

There’s no doubt, she’s a model for all of us. After six years of serving in the Army, this veteran is new to teaching. This is only her second year teaching and first time teaching fifth grade.

“The skills she used in the military – helped bring that into the classroom,”  fellow fifth grade teacher, Connor O’Day, said.  “She really makes the individual student feel like they matter and their work and voice matters.”

“It was very obvious she was going to excel as a teacher,” second grade teacher at Chapelwood Elementary, Rachael Stewart, said. “She goes above and beyond and teaches the whole child. Those kids who have those walls up, she gets those walls down by building relationships with them.”

Now after 2 years of teaching, fellow staff say Liggett is already a veteran educator.

“At Chapelwood our motto is, ‘every child, every day – achieving success in every way,’ and she fully embodies that a nd teaches to the whole child – social, emotional and academic base,” Angela Brown, the assistant principle at Chapelwood, said.

That’s why she nominated Liggett for the Golden Apple Award.

“I was just so happy because it is such a deserving honor for her and I am so glad she is getting the recognition she deserves,” Brown said.

Unlike the Marvel Universe, recognizing a hero like this doesn’t happen nearly enough. That’s why the News 8 team went to surprise her.

Liggett was surprised and emotional as the WISH-TV team showed her the video from students and staff.

“I am just blown away, it is a lot of emotions for me because I put everything into what I do, and I mean they are my whole world. I love them to death. It means so much,” Liggett said. “My past of being in the army, they embrace that. They use the models that I was instilled with, and now it’s the same ones they are using in their own lives. It is like passing the torch.”

She hopes her life of service helps encourage other people to give back to their own communities. 

“My whole life I have been a public servant, and I feel like putting back into the community what they put into me is very important. I wholeheartedly believe, if you want your neighborhood or community to be a better place, that you need to take part in it and lead the way. Be the model, because they are our future,” Liggett said.

And what better model than a teacher? They always save the day.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.

WISH-TV plans to celebrate all 9 teachers from the 2022-2023 school year at 6:30 p.m. on June 14th during the Golden Apple Award Special. During the half-hour special, we will revisit each winning teacher’s story and in the end, a Grand Finale Winner will be crowned.