As we enter March, National Women’s History Month, I have felt inspired and grateful in considering so many talented women who have shaped our school community and contributed to its strength over the past five decades. Having had the privilege of working here for a significant percentage of Episcopal’s history, I have benefitted from the mentoring, modeling, support and companionship of many highly effective educators and have made friendships that I pray will endure once my time of employment is complete. Regrettably, that is not possible with one of my most treasured friends; how I miss Kay Fenton!
Kay was an unforgettable colleague whose example continues to challenge and motivate me and whose impact on Episcopal is enduring. She taught high school mathematics here for eighteen years and served as our Math Department Chair for much of that time. Her final year with us was tremendously challenging for Kay and all who loved her, as we witnessed her valiant battle against an aggressive cancer that ultimately took her life.
Kay was smart, witty, creative, and fun. She loved her family, shopping, and sports; it would be difficult to find a more loyal, enthusiastic fan of the LSU Tigers or Episcopal Knights! In the classroom, Kay was efficient, demanding, and passionate about her students’ understanding and progress. Her standards for her students were very high, but she took seriously her responsibility to motivate their hard work and build their confidence. While she felt frustrated by any of her students who were inconsistent in completing homework she assigned (particularly the few who were strong enough to make A’s on their tests without doing that work), she was tireless in her dedication to those who worked hard while struggling to excel. As a result of her skilled teaching, those students often surprised themselves and shined with success when it came time for their AP exams.
During her years with us, Kay unified and motivated our Math Department to strive for excellence. She worked as a consultant for the College Board, served as a reader for the AP calculus exam, conducted numerous AP Calculus workshops, and mentored math teachers across the South. In 1997, she won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and brought honor to Episcopal with this prestigious achievement.
My two sons, both Episcopal alumni, had the blessing of having Kay as their teacher for Honors Algebra II and AP Calculus during high school. They both valued her impact on their education and their lives and mourned her loss to our community. In addition to our family’s relationship with Kay at school, she was our friend at church, where she worshipped regularly. She also was a frequent passenger in our car for away Episcopal football games. I am convinced that her lucky blue and gold shaker made the difference in some close games for the Knights along the way.
As I remember Kay, I am inspired by two important ways that her legacy endures for our school. I am certain that she would be so very proud to see Stephen Anderson, her former student, capably leading our Mathematics Department and setting similar standards for excellence for our math program and our calculus students. She saw Stephen’s potential to become a first-rate teacher when he was still in high school. Kay’s influence also perpetuates through the Kay Fenton Award, a tuition-remission scholarship presented each spring to an 8th grade student who has been an exemplary math student and demonstrated strong character and leadership during middle school. The recipients of this award have become some of our most outstanding high school scholars and leaders and have excelled in their college experience. What a tribute to Kay to have these quality young people honored with an award bearing her name!
In this month designated as a time to honor the impact of strong women in our country’s history, it is fitting to recognize the contributions of intelligent, dedicated women of strong character and purpose who have worked to improve our school and facilitate its ongoing progress. Kay Fenton’s legacy serves as a stellar example for all of us who love our work as educators and believe in the impact that our efforts and care can make on the students we serve.