Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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A Division of the Arkansas Department of Education

Stories That Matter

From highlighting Arkansas’ statewide reading campaign to showcasing the state’s computer science initiative, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is proud to share informational and inspirational stories that feature education and educators in Arkansas. Together, we are leading the nation in student-focused education! #TeachArkansas

Seth Francis: Helping to Shape the Future

Seth FrancisSeth Francis is a second year teacher at Greenland Middle School (Greenland School District) and a 2019 graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

“I’ve always wanted to teach so I can contribute to shaping the future, especially since I don’t have children of my own,” he says.

Education runs deep in Seth’s blood: “It’s a family tradition that began with my great-grandmother in 1923, who taught grades 1-12 in a one-room schoolhouse. My grandmother was a college professor and former Dean of Students at Henderson State University, and my mother was a middle school teacher in Hot Springs for many years. That makes me a fourth generation educator.”

Relationships are key for Seth. He knows that academic achievement can only be attained through rapport with his students. He builds strong relationships with students by cultivating a classroom environment where everyone feels safe. Mistakes are not only expected, but are used to shape future instruction. Students view mistakes as a way to communicate their needs rather than a deficit, a classroom value that he has carefully created.Seth Francis teaches students seated in a circle on the floor

“Sharing the “Aha!” moments with students when they are learning new concepts is my favorite part about being an educator," Seth says. "One of my biggest goals in teaching is to instill the importance of being a self-led, lifelong learner.

He says he never envisioned myself teaching math. "In fact, that was the last thing I envisioned myself teaching. When students need support in class, I share this with them to show that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything! In the words of Whitney Houston, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

Seth is also a recipient of the Linda Eilers Award of Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature at the University of Arkansas, 2018 and a member of the Arkansas Literacy Association and Project Learning Tree.

Submitted by Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative. #TeachArkansa

Allanna Henton: Focusing on Students' Social-Emotional Wellness

Allanna HentonAllanna Henton is an alternative certification teacher in the novice mentoring program at South Central Service Cooperative. She earned a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's degree in human services while employed as a social worker.

In 2018, Allanna participated in and graduated from the program Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World. This program is part of the Bridges Out of Poverty training through Ruby Payne’s aha!Process Inc. She then decided to put her degrees and training to good use as a teacher for Camden Fairview Public Schools.

Solid impact poster

Allanna is in her second classroom year and is teaching third grade virtually at Ivory Primary School. She is working towards her professional educator’s license through the state’s Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL) program. Enrollment in the APPEL program allows a candidate with a bachelor’s degree or higher to be licensed and employed as a classroom teacher while completing the necessary requirements for an Arkansas teaching license.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Allanna saw a need to support students who may be isolated or emotionally at-risk. She co-founded Solid Impact, a free support group that meets once a month for school-age children and focuses on their social and emotional well-being.This mom of three also serves as director of the local nonprofit group, Impact Camden, and attends Koinonia of Grace Church.

Submitted by South Central Service Cooperative.      #TeachArkansas

Jimmy Daniels: Striving to Make a Difference in Students' Lives

Jimmy DanielsAn ever-increasing number of teachers are entering the profession by taking a non-traditional pathway to educator licensure - some coming from or alongside a decidedly different career. Jimmy (Jed) Daniels lives in Reyno, Arkansas, and is the pastor of Old Reyno Freewill Baptist Church. He entered the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL) program and became a social studies teacher in the Sloan-Hendrix School District in Imboden, Arkansas.

What led him to the teaching profession?

“I always wanted to teach history and coach football. That was my dream since I was a young football player myself," Jimmy said. "I had some of the best coaches and mentors that a kid could have asked for. These men had a huge impact on my life, and I wanted to make that same type of difference in other young people’s lives.”

Jimmy explained that often his family couldn’t afford to provide for him in the way the other students’ parents did.

“These men always made sure that I did not do without when we would stop and eat on away games,” he said.

They also gave him the opportunity to do odd jobs to earn money. Jimmy acknowledged that, as a result, he developed a strong work ethic.

Recognizing that these men did those things for him simply because they cared, he wanted to do the same for others. Called first to the ministry, Jimmy saw that the lessons of love and sacrifice learned from those early mentors served him well as a pastor. When given the opportunity to enter the classroom, he felt that it was a plan consistent with divine leadership in his life. 

Submitted by Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative.      #TeachArkansas

Jana Mead: Dedicated to her Students and the Community 

Jana MeadJana Mead is a proud educator in the Southside School District where she has worked for 14 years. She currently teaches science at Southside Middle School in Batesville where she's passionate about helping students set and achieve goals.

Jana was named Educator of the Year by the Rotary Club of Batesville during its 2019 Community Awards. The club annually recognizes individuals throughout the community for their hard work and dedication to others.

The educator award is for "a teacher who goes out of their way to support their students. This person cares deeply for their pupils and it shows through all their actions."

Jana enjoys having the opportunity to work with students not only academically but also in building service and leadership skills. She has been a Junior Beta Club sponsor for seven years. She is also a 4-H leader who helps support the community through work with the campus food pantry. Over the last few years, the 4-H'ers and Junior Beta members have become increasingly aware of other insecurities that their classmates are facing.

After a great deal of planning and a year of hard work, the Southerner Comfort Closet became a reality. The closet now offers school clothing, interview attire, sports equipment, and personal care items for preschool through high school students.

When she's not in the classroom, Jana spends quite a bit of time outside. She and her husband, Jeff, own a registered Hereford farm and have been raising kids and cattle together for over 25 years.

Jana went above and beyond over the summer by preparing her classroom and helping out the community. She has been keeping the school's food pantry stocked, unloading trucks of food, handing out clothing from the Southerner Comfort Closet, and many other tasks to care for the community. Thank you, Jana!

Submitted by the North Central Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.     #TeachArkansas

Hollie Allensworth: Heart for Helping Others Succeed

Hollie AllensworthHollie Allensworth has been an educator for four years. She is a fabulous second grade teacher at Ridge Road Elementary (RRE) in the North Little Rock School District where she's taught since 2018. She is so wonderful, in fact, that she serves on the leadership team and is helping RRE succeed at Opportunity Culture.

When Bonnie Curlin, K-12 coordinator of gifted education and teacher mentoring, recently asked “Why did you become a teacher?," Hollie responded, “I spent a lot of time at my grandma's house. She was a foster parent for many years. I consistently helped some of the kids with their homework, which I loved doing. I have always enjoyed helping/working with others. Seeing others succeed brings happiness to my heart. My family and friends encouraged me to become a teacher. Originally, I wanted to become a social worker, but my path lead me a different direction. Becoming a teacher has been a blessing in many ways.”If you teach with love in your hear, you will never fail - Hollie Allensworth

“I am so glad that Hollie is being honored! I have had the pleasure of working with her for the past two years as her MCL (multi-classroom leader) and literacy coach when she taught fourth grade," said Lisa Spory. "She is one of four teachers chosen to serve on the leadership team because of her leadership qualities and growth mindset attitude."

Last year, Hollie was chosen to serve on a team that attended and trained on how to use the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model for the school's Collaborative Team meetings and she has been an advocate for using this model with fidelity, Spory said.

“Hollie Allensworth has been an essential part of the Ridge Road Wolf Pack since being hired," said Matthew How, school principal. "She works tirelessly to create instruction that meets the social as well as academic needs of all her students. Her honesty, feedback, and ability to listen with an open mind have assisted her in being a strong school leader."

She has attended professional development on leading High Reliability Schools and other training in order to support effective collaborative teams, How said.

"Her work on creating a plan for the implementation of Opportunity Culture was essential in leading to our recent recognition," he said. "Her work has been instrumental in turning our school around, and we look forward to what's next."

Submitted by the North Little Rock School District.      #TeachArkansas

Ann Price: Enhancing Student Learning With Digital Media

Ann PriceAnn Price teaches seventh grade science and yearbook staff at Alma Middle School. She is certified P-4 with endorsements in 5-8 science, math, and literacy. While this is her fourth year teaching at Alma, she has been in the education field for 13 years.

As schools opened this year in the midst of a pandemic, Ann says it became evident that the way educators teach and deliver content needed to change. She and her team asked themselves, "How can we make this better for students?" This focus on her students led to much research which eventually led her to create Digital Interactive Notebooks (DINBs). science notebook

The template she created in Google Slides looks and works just like a notebook but students can add photos, videos, gifs, access links and much more. 

In addition, Chrome extensions can be added that allow students to type on PDFs, have text read to them, or help them type out their thoughts.tips for Google slides

Ann says that data is essential for science. Her templates will help students chart and analyze data in an organized manner.

From the teacher perspective, all work will be neat and easily accessible for grading. This will lead to quicker feedback and formative assessments. Plus, there will be no need for sanitizing or quarantining the work before grading it.

It all will make students more accountable for their work. No more "my dog ate my homework" or "I forgot it at home".

Ann and her fellow team teachers know this will be a big adjustment for their students. However, they believe that, in the long run, it will be worth it as students will continue to learn no matter what learning environment they encounter.

Submitted by Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative.        #TeachArkasnas

Michelle Boone: Born to Make a Difference

Michelle BooneMichelle Boone teaches second grade at J.F. Wahl Elementary in the Helena-West Helena School District, where she has been teaching her entire career. Like many teachers now, Michelle is teaching both in-person and virtually. A challenge for sure, but one that Michelle has taken head on. Why? Because Michelle is about the children and wants to ensure that no matter the environment her students are learning and excelling.

The aunt of one of her blended-learning students has witnessed her passion and commitment first-hand. 

“Mrs. Boone has sparked a passion for learning in my niece that I have been hoping for," she said. "Her interactions with her students demonstrate that she loves and values them.”

Michelle is a *“Rita Pierson” teacher. She believes that no matter the circumstances and even when the job is tough - maybe even tougher than normal -  educators were born to make a difference. 

(*Rita Pierson was an educator with 40 years of experience who served as a teacher, counselor, testing coordinator, assistant principal and champion for students. One of her most well-known quotes is "Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.")

Submitted by Great Rivers Education Service Cooperative.        #TeachArkansas

Jessica Gallagher: Novice Teacher Extraordinaire

Jessica Gallagher“Every time we had an idea for another student simulation, we would look at each other and know we were ‘biting off more than we could chew’, and then just agree to go for it,” says Jessica Gallagher, referring to her collaboration with a colleague to create real-world, hands-on simulations for their middle school students.

Jessica is currently a third grade teacher at Oscar Hamilton Elementary School in Foreman, Arkansas. She began her career at Ashdown Junior High as a math teacher four years ago. What makes Jessica shine is her willingness to try new ideas and collaborate with her colleagues, even as a novice teacher.

Recognized as the Outstanding Novice Teacher for DeQueen-Mena Educational Service Cooperative, Jessica partnered withJessica Gallagher being recognized as the Outstanding Novice Teacher for DeQueen-Mena Co-op, the science teacher in her grade level, Abby Honea, who was also a novice. Together they created several student simulations that involved both science and math, and then combined their classes for students to work in groups of engineers or whatever professions fit the project.

“Our greatest asset as new teachers was that we didn’t know we couldn’t do it!” Jessica says.

A favorite project allowed the students to act as various types of engineers working together to build a new school. The simulation included real-life setbacks such as no electricity, inability to get equipment, etc. Seeing the students solve real life problems using their science and math skills was rewarding for these two young, enthusiastic teachers.

Jessica was inspired to be a teacher by her high school math teacher, especially once she knew she wanted a profession where she could help people.

“Teaching allows me to make a difference every day,” Jessica says.

An added benefit of teaching is that there is a need for teachers in every community.

“Being a teacher opened the door for me to now switch to a lower grade level and move home to Foreman, where I graduated,” she says. “And that makes me happy!”

Submitted by DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative.           #Teach Arkansas

Kevin Liles: Untraditional Path to a Traditional Career

Kevin LilesKevin Liles began his journey to teaching in an untraditional way. When he graduated from Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas he did not plan to return - especially in the role of teacher.  But 16 years later, he went to college and began to work on a coaching degree. Encountering some setbacks, he pursued a general education degree and joined the workforce, giving up on his dream of teaching at least for a time.

Kevin joined the staff of the Jonesboro Human Development Center working in the maintenance department. Through his time there, he advanced from maintenance to assistant to the superintendent. In this position he began working in the area of maltreatment, abuse and neglect in relation to the residents. These experiences shaped Kevin and nudged him to begin thinking about college and teaching again.

During the pandemic, Kevin used the time to take and pass the Praxis’ exams he needed. He enrolled in Arkansas State University and was hired by Jonesboro Public Schools as a special education resource teacher - back where it all began.

 “Mr. Liles is a perfect example of timing. As a result of his time working with adults with intellectual challenges, his perspective changed and he was available to fill the position needed at Jonesboro Public Schools. Not just fill the position, but build a relationship with his students and be the teacher that they need,” shared Dr. Brad Faught, executive principal at The Academies of Jonesboro High School

 “He is a great example of a success story, not just for him but for our district," Dr. Faught said. "He came full circle, from the role of student to a teacher.”

Kevin earned a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies and has his provisional license. He is pursuing a master's degree in special education K-12 at Arkansas State University.

Submitted by the Crowley’s Ridge Education Service Cooperative.    #TeachArkansas

Mark Marshall Jr.: Inspired to Begin a New Career Journey

Mark Marshall JrMark Marshall, Jr. did not set out to be a teacher. For years he worked as a correctional officer in charge of school security at the Pine Bluff Complex. That is where he became inspired to join the teaching profession.

At the advice of the Arkansas Correctional Schools (ACS) Superintendent Dr. Bill Glover, Mark enrolled in the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL) program. He completed it in two years - submitting a passing portfolio of materials for the edTPA assessment.

Mark worked for a year at Watson Chapel Junior High and now works with ACS. “His background in corrections and his dedication to education has proven to be an asset to the district,“ Dr. Glover says.

Mark started his teaching career three years ago at Watson Chapel Junior High teaching social studies to teenagers. “I decided to become a teacher because I find great fulfillment in sharing knowledge with others that can be used in a real practical sense for improving one’s life,” he says.

It is that drive that has guided him back to ACS where he now teaches basic GED courses such as reading, writing, math, science, and social studies to adult inmates in the hopes that he can help them be better prepared to contribute to society when they leave the facility.

“His professionalism and dedication to improving himself and helping his students to achieve at their maximum potential definitely sets him apart.” says Bill Shelly, Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative APPEL site facilitator. “He is going to have a great impact on education, wherever he decides to teach.”

Submitted by the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative.     #TeachArkansas

Katie Hoyt: Cultivating a Positive Environment

Katie HoytKatie Hoyt, a first grade teacher at Hector Elementary (Hector Public Schools), is a stand-out teacher known for her contagious joy and positivity in and out of the classroom. That positivity has not diminished in recent months as the education community has been stretched and challenged during our global pandemic. Katie has jumped into learning all things virtual with excitement and leadership. She has created and shared with others many virtual avenues for her students to get to know her and build community and belonging in fun, exciting ways!

Katie was inspired to become an educator by her second grade Reading Recovery teacher, Mr. Turner, who cultivated a positive culture and made her feel important. Now she spends her days providing the same kind of environment and feelings for all of her students. 

We are so honored to have Katie teaching in our Arch Ford region!

Submitted by the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative.                 #TeachArkansas

Katie Hoyt illustrationIn February 2020, Katie Hoyt - along with other teachers in the first three years of their career - participated in the Sanford New Teacher Academy. In an article in the University of Central Arkansas College of Education newsletter, Katie said, "Because of this day, I hope that every student who walks through my classroom door knows that they are loved and that they are safe at school and in my classroom. I want to give all of them wonderful memories where they can think back one day and think how fun first grade was and how much I loved them."

 

Breanna Burris: Her "Why" is All About Her Students

Breanna BurrisIn an effort to begin connecting brand new teachers with other novices already in the field, Breanna Burris, a second-year kindergarten teacher at Oaklawn STEM, was asked to share some ideas. Here is a snippet of the letter she composed for her new colleagues:

"You have chosen the BEST profession ever! Instead of me giving you a Classroom Management plan or resources for your tool belt, I want to provide some encouragement as the school year quickly approaches. There is SO much you will not be prepared for. And, that is OKAY! Keep believing in yourself and believing in the impact you ARE making. It doesn't feel like it because school is virtual? Let me say, YOU ARE STILL TEACHING!!! Do your best, and remember - YOU ARE CREATING HISTORY!!"

Breanna is beginning her second year as a kindergarten teacher at Oaklawn STEM Magnet School in the Hot Springs School District. She is originally from Eden, North Carolina. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from a small Christian college in Hot Springs, Arkansas then began the MAT program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Breanna Burris

"The last two years teaching kindergarten have been the BEST two years of my life, and I am so thankful to have chosen the best profession in the world," she says.

Breanna contends that her "why" is all about her students. Upon entering her classroom, they know they are safe, loved, and can be happy.

"We dare to create, to dream, to imagine," she says. "We engage, we empower, and we excel. We laugh, sometimes we cry, and we learn. We learn together."

Submitted by Dawson Education Service Cooperative.        #TeachArkansas

 Read Breanna's Dear First Year Teacher letter.    Watch Breanna read her letter.

Mollie Sanford: Growing Teachers of Tomorrow

Mollie Sanford

As the eldest of four children, Mollie Sanford always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She feels called to the profession that creates all other professions. Mollie teaches Family and Consumer Sciences, Food Safety & Nutrition, and Foundations of Teaching at White Hall High School. Recently 100 percent of the students enrolled in her Foundations of Teaching class passed the para-professional certification exam.

 "I love the Foundations of Teaching program because I feel like it was tailor-made for me to have the opportunity to work with students who are just as passionate about education as I am," Mollie said.Mollie Sanford, left, with other teachers at White Hall High School

Fellow educators attribute Mollie's success to her incredible work ethic and pleasant personality. She develops a wonderful rapport with all of her students, parents, and fellow teachers.

Mollie serves on the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences Executive Board of Directors, and she is certified in Family and Consumer Sciences, Business & Technology, CPR, and First Aid.

Submitted by Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative.                 #TeachArkansas

Cynthia Arki: "The Epitome of What Teaching is All About" 

Cyhthia Arki, right, with her husband Joe

Cynthia Arki is a first grade teacher of 10 years at Nelson-Wilks-Herron Elementary School who goes above and beyond. She and her husband, Joe, have three boys who attend Mountain Home Public Schools.

She's a grade level leader, is scheduled to represent her campus on their district SLIPS committee for wellness, is on the school's Guiding Coalition, participates in standards alignment for literacy and math, and has been chosen as Mountain Home's first grade Digital Instructional Developer. She has also worked tirelessly this summer to learn the school's new LMS system, Canvas, and will serve on the team training her campus.

In addition, Cynthia will be the district's first grade Bomber Virtual Academy teacher. This position entails instructing first grade, supporting teachers with blended learning, providing live and virtual lessons, and offering other support as needed.

Cynthia is, without a doubt, the epitome of what teaching is all about - being flexible and adaptive while learning new skills in order to provide the highest quality learning experience for students. Kudos to you, Cynthia! Thank you for the professionalism you bring to all you do.

Submitted by Northcentral Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.                 #TeachArkansas

 

For past stories, please visit the Stories That Matter Archive.

For more information, please contact:

Brandy Howell, Educator Impact Coordinator
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Four Capitol Mall, Room 405-B
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone:  501-683-4786
Email: Brandy.Howell@arkansas.gov
 

 

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