Winning attitude: Shoemaker of Muhlenberg South Middle School earns 2019 Fred award

Photo by Greg Eans, Angela Shoemaker sets at a table in the lunchroom at Muhlenberg County High School where one of her pieces of artwork graces the wall behind her, a large cupcake that she has posted the names of students and staff having birthdays, each month.

Angela Shoemaker always goes the extra mile.

Now, the Muhlenberg South Middle School employee has the award to prove it.

On Friday morning, the Kentucky Association for School Administrators announced Shoemaker won the 2019 Fred Award, an annual honor the association gives to a non-administrative staff member or volunteer who focuses on positivity, shows caring and makes the ordinary extraordinary. The Fred Award was inspired by postman Fred Shea, the subject of Mark Sanborn's book titled "The Fred Factor."

"It couldn't happen to a more deserving person," said Muhlenberg South Middle School Principal Brian Lile.

Lile nominated Shoemaker, who is a custodian at Muhlenberg South Middle School. It's the second time she has been nominated for the statewide award. A few years ago, Rich Gimmel, a member of the Kentucky Board of Education, threw Shoemaker's name in the hat.

Shoemaker is the first person in the school district to earn the Fred Award.

She is a self-taught artist who uses her talent to spread happiness and positivity, Lile said.

Instead of discarding old cans of paint, Shoemaker used them to turn the school's once-bland hallways into colorful canvasses. The image of a smiling sun peeks over a brick wall in one place. Stripes, circles and splashes of color decorate other walls.

In the lunchroom, she painted a giant cupcake. She decorates it each month with the names of students and staff who celebrate birthdays.

She also posts a different drawing and motivational message in the lunchroom daily.

Most importantly, however, Shoemaker smiles. As a door greeter, she meets students with a smile every morning. Her goal is to get each kid to smile back.

Smiling through adversity has defined her life. As a kid, Shoemaker was bullied because of her weight.

Later, heartache hit when she learned she couldn't have children.

Her husband died in 2014 after years of battling a progressive genetic disorder.

Fred Award finalists received a luxurious stay at the Galt House on Thursday, but not Shoemaker.

She couldn't attend KASA's Louisville conference, where she and two other Fred Award finalists were honored, because Shoemaker has been hospitalized at Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital about a month. An infection set in after her left knee was replaced in May.

A surgeon removed her new knee in mid-June. Since then, she's been on heavy doses of antibiotics. She expects to be in the hospital a few more weeks.

There was no grumbling or fussing about missing out on the chance to go to Louisville with coworkers. Instead, her comment was: "I am blessed."

On Friday morning, about 25 people gathered beside her in the hospital's conference room to watch the KASA session live. Thanks to an electronic hookup, people at the Louisville conference could see her, and she could see them.

"I cried," Shoemaker said of winning the award. "I couldn't believe it. It was a total surprise."

Before the announcement, Lile met the other Fred Award finalists, Russell Harrison and Michael Johnson. Both are custodians, too.

After hearing their stories, Lile felt the judges had a tough decision. The other two finalists have hearts as big as Shoemaker's, he said.

"Even if she didn't win, she's a Fred in my book," Lile said as he was driving back from Louisville.

The three finalists received $250 each. As the Fred Award winner, Shoemaker also received a $500 prize.

That money may be needed to help pay for her extended hospital stay and related expenses, she said. After her discharge, she expects to be off work two or three months before undergoing a second surgery to replace her left knee.

With the therapy and recovery that will follow, it may be 2020 before Shoemaker returns to work. She's not sure.

Until then, she plans to face whatever comes like always -- with a smile and a positive attitude.

"That's my goal for the day -- to smile and make someone else smile," Shoemaker said from her hospital bed Friday. "I am beaming with joy. I am very blessed."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835,

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.