Former Kentucky Teacher of the Year turns focus to addiction recovery

Dueñas was the 2019 Kentucky State Teacher of the Year

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For 13 years, teaching was a passion for Jessica Dueñas.

She had worked in Jefferson and Oldham County school districts and in 2019, she was named the Kentucky State Teacher of the Year.

“Obviously, the biggest honor I’ve ever had and because of that, it’s allowed me to impact so many people,” she said.

In 2020, Spectrum News 1 met with Dueñas after she donated money from the award so students at W.E.B. DuBois Academy could go on a trip to Washington, D.C.

“As soon as I got the trophy, I knew that that was what I was going to do,” she said in the 2020 interview. “I knew I wanted to take students to Washington, D.C.”

But outside the classroom, Dueñas had been suffering in silence from an addiction to alcohol, she told Spectrum News 1 last month.

“The more that I drank, the more that I dove myself into my career in a way to kind of make myself feel better about who I was because I was so, so unhappy,” she recalled. “So I was like, well, I can’t be a bad person if I’m a good teacher.”

Then came the pandemic, when Dueñas said a man she had been in a relationship with died from addiction.

“Nobody knew what I had been struggling with. I had kept it to myself,” she said. “When he died, I had like no one to go to and so I immediately relapsed and from there, it was a complete spiral for eight months.”

Source: Former Kentucky Teacher of the Year turns focus to addiction recovery

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