Kevin Lay ’07 is latest example of WWU’s prowess in producing K-12 education leaders across Missouri

By all accounts, Owensville (Mo.) High School science teacher Kevin Lay is wildly succeeding in his education career.

The 2007 graduate of William Woods University, where he earned his Masters in Education, was recently nominated as Regional Teacher of the Year by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), as well as semi-finalist for State Teacher of the Year. Earlier this year, however, the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) III and IV teacher prompted a group of his students to achieve something even bigger, on a national scale.

This spring, Lay’s students won one of three grand prizes in the Samsung Electronics America’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a national competition that challenges public school students in grades 6 through 12 to use STEM skills to address real-world problems. As one of three national winners, Lay and his students journeyed to New York City in April to receive their prize of $100,000, which was used to purchase technology and classroom supplies at Owensville High School such as Samsung Flips, Samsung Chromebooks, 3-D printers, tablets, microscopes, lab materials and more.

“It’s been a blessing and an honor to work alongside incredible students, staff, administration, and community to reach a goal like national champions for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest,” Lay said. “An award like this can transform a student, school, community, and nation!  It’s also wonderful how a process that not only a teacher believes in, but is trying to instill into their students receives the incredible validation that Samsung’s SFT brings to the STEM community.  It is my hope that teachers all over the country take the time to invest in their students into this amazing opportunity, and then watch some amazing things happen!  

With the increase of school shootings in recent years across the nation, Lay’s students designed a simple and secure door lock to help keep students and teachers safe in the event of an armed intruder gaining access into the building as their entry into the Samsung contest. Because traditional locks can be quickly dismantled by a firearm, Owensville High School students under Lay’s direction designed, modeled and created a steel lock that cannot be easily disengaged from outside the classroom. Once installed on the interior of the door, the one-piece lock can be easily and quickly put into place to prevent an intruder from entering and attacking students and teachers.

Having his students earn national honors and $100,000 worth of valuable resources for his school is another pinnacle in Lay’s still-young teaching career, which received a significant boost from his experience at William Woods University.

“Earning my M.Ed through William Woods was an insightful and relevant experience for me and for the other teachers in our classes,” said Lay. “The professors took the time to not only explain the relevancy of what we were learning, but spent time on the authentic application of our content. It was a fun learning experience for a group of teachers that were just passionate about teaching and serving students. We had a great and meaningful time learning together, completing problem-based learning challenges, and applying our knowledge in our classrooms.”

Lay’s success is just one more example of the leadership role that William Woods University graduates play in K-12 schools districts across the state of Missouri. One recent statewide survey found 81 WWU graduates serving as school superintendents, 123 serving as school district administrators and another 575 who were principals or assistant principals.

“We pride ourselves in producing our state’s K-12 education leaders of tomorrow, as illustrated by the impressive numbers of our alumni currently serving as leaders in school districts across Missouri,” said Jim Concannon, Director of the WWU School of Education. “These highly successful teachers like Kevin Lay, as well as principals, superintendents and other administrators, in turn bolster our graduate programs because many of them serve as our instructors while actually out there practicing what they’re teaching others to do.”

William Woods’ advanced education programs bring evening classrooms to districts and educators where there is an interest. In addition to the main campus in Fulton, cohorts can be found around the state in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Moberly, Springfield, Ozark, Cape Girardeau and Rolla. For more information on WWU’s education programs, contact an enrollment representative at William Woods at (800)995-3199 or visit