Latisha Dean Denton Memorial Scholarship honors beloved Clay County teacher
Latisha Dean Denton is remembered as a passionate educator who dedicated her career to ensuring students reached their fullest learning potential.
Latisha was just three days away from starting her 31st year of teaching in the Clay County School system when she was killed in an automobile accident. Latisha’s family and friends say it has been devastating to lose her so suddenly, and the loss has left a void in their lives. To honor Latisha’s memory and continue her desire to see students succeed, Latisha’s family and friends have chosen to establish the Latisha Dean Denton Memorial Scholarship at Tennessee Tech.
“We chose to endow a scholarship at Tech because we wanted to do something lasting that was also aligned with her life and career,” said John Denton, Latisha’s brother. “That's why we chose to award it to a graduating Clay County High School senior with preference given to education majors. Latisha was a product of the Clay County School system, and it’s where she spent her entire teaching career after graduating from Tech.”
Latisha graduated from Hermitage Springs High School in Clay County and was a three-time graduate of Tech. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist degrees from Tech, all in the field of education. Latisha’s friends and family say she was destined to become a teacher because both of her parents were educators. And Tech was the ideal choice to pursue a college degree because of its proximity to her home in Clay County and strong education program. Additionally, Latisha’s parents both graduated from Tech, and Latisha even attended their college graduations.
After graduating from Tech, Denton began a 30-year teaching career in Clay County Schools. James Franklin, Latisha’s childhood friend and longtime teaching colleague, says Latisha loved being an educator.
“Latisha was always thrilled when former students became successful adults, and she was especially excited when a student became a successful educator,” Franklin said. “Latisha worked countless hours, both during and after school, to identify her students’ needs. She worked tirelessly to find multiple ways to teach the grade level content in order to reach every student. And Latisha held her students accountable by creating assignments that required her students to apply the knowledge obtained.”
Tanna Browning Walker says she considered Latisha a mentor and colleague, but most importantly, a friend. The two grew up together – their mothers were close friends – and when Walker was placed with Latisha at Hermitage Springs School for her residency, she couldn’t think of a better placement.
“I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with her and so grateful because it was someone I knew and already thought so highly of,” Walker said. “Looking back now, I can honestly say that was the greatest honor of my life. From day one, she made me feel so welcome in her classroom. She worried about her students with such a passion I can’t even begin to explain. She worried about their education, but even more so, she worried about their wellbeing. I saw firsthand the love she poured into each one of her students. I saw firsthand the hours of dedication and work she put in long after 3 p.m. to ensure those kids were as successful as possible the next day when they entered her classroom.”
Coretta Denton, Latisha’s mother, says many people have reached out to share examples of how Latisha impacted their lives through encouragement and a passion for education.
“She always pushed students to be the best they could be,” Coretta said. “I have heard the following words used to describe Latisha: huge heart, quiet ways, kind, loving, compassionate, Christian woman, trustworthy, sympathetic, understanding and thoughtful. And these are all excellent traits I would like future teachers to possess.”
The Latisha Dean Denton Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to graduates of Clay County High School to honor the place Latisha loved, and preference will be given to education majors to honor the field she dedicated her life to.
“I have no doubt that her legacy will live on for years through the lives of all those students that she came into contact with, all of her friends who will miss her forever and, of course, her family whom she loved more than anything,” Walker said. “When I first began teaching and still to this day, she has been the biggest inspiration when I step into my own classroom.”
Franklin added, “Latisha would be proud that this scholarship will be awarded to deserving Clay County High School students who intend to become educators.”