Stories That Matter

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

Scott Adkins:  From Retired Marine to Novice Teacher

Mr. Scott Adkins is a first-year World Geography and History teacher at Harmony Grove High School in Camden, Arkansas. Mr. Adkins became a teacher because “I felt I could have a positive impact on the future of our nation. I have had the wonderful privilege of serving this great country in locations all around the world, and I thought I might be able to bring some of that experience into the classroom.” Becoming a teacher placed him in a position where he could help instill pride for our nation in today's youth. 

Mr. Adkins joined the United States Marine Corps in 1998 where he served in the infantry before being recruited into the Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence field until his retirement in 2017. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other theaters of operation around the world. Living among the indigenous people of countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, he was allowed to experience world cultures firsthand. He is now sharing those experiences with his students.

Mr. Adkins received his bachelor's degree from Liberty University, and he is currently enrolled in the MAT program at Southern Arkansas University.  According to his principal, Mr. Jeff Mock, Mr. Adkins has a natural teacher instinct. He noticed this on the first day of school when he observed Mr. Adkins standing in his doorway to monitor the hallway. While there, he spoke to every student as they entered and dismissed his class. He has repeated this practice daily throughout the year. Mr. Mock went on to say that Mr. Adkins sets high expectations for his students. He does not give up on his kids and works tirelessly to keep them from giving up on themselves. 

Submitted by South Central Service Cooperative

Brittany Slayton:  Building Confidence by Teaching Life Skills

Brittany Slayton is a dedicated grades K-5th special education teacher at Oakbrooke Elementary in Sherwood. Mrs. Slayton impacts the lives of students in the Life Skills classroom and provides a safe and nurturing environment that allows her students to learn and acquire new skills.

Mrs. Slayton has been a teacher for seven years. This former Teacher of the Month is a special education mentor, assisting other Life Skills teachers throughout the district. She also serves on her school’s leadership team and is an item contributor for the Dynamic Learning Maps state assessment.

Mrs. Slayton uses teachable moments to build confidence in her students and reinforces skills through encouragement, support, and consistency. She is constantly finding ways to reach students, as every child is unique and learns differently. 

Mrs. Slayton is always willing to provide educational learning experiences. For example, for Black History Month, Mrs. Slayton discussed Jackie Robinson and the barriers he broke by integrating baseball. She even incorporated activity by playing baseball with her students. 

She is dedicated to providing individualized instruction to each of her students to facilitate independence and success in their own lives. “She is truly an asset to our district,” said Occupational Therapist Michelle Keaton, a member of the staff at Oakbrooke Elementary. Ms. Keaton adds, “Mrs. Slayton inspires me by the impact she is making in the lives of these students. She is such an inspiration!”

Submitted by Pulaski County Special School District #TeachArkansas

Jeremy Floyd: Bringing Joy to the Classroom and Excitement to Learning

Jeremy Floyd

This school year has brought many challenges to education. Many educators struggled to build positive relationships with their students due to distance learning. How do you create an inviting place where students want to come and learn when everyone feels so disconnected due to social distancing? Novice teacher Jeremy Floyd is overcoming this struggle through the use of TikTok (@mrfloydstiktok) and feels this is his best year yet despite a national pandemic that has affected what was once a “normal” classroom setting.  

Jeremy joined the Hope School District in Hope, Arkansas last yeaJeremy Floyd in the classroomthrough the Arkansas Teacher Corps program.  Bill Hoglund, Hope High School principal, believes Jeremy represents the best of that program, and “as a second-year teacher, he represents what a lot of experienced teachers wish to be.” Jeremy is considered an even-tempered person in everything except teaching, where he becomes over the top when students are concerned. 

Because he had amazing teachers and he saw the impact that his mother, a teacher, made on students, teaching has always been in the back of Jeremy’s mind. However, it wasn’t until he began to notice the disparities and inequalities in the education system that he decided to join the education world and play a role in the fight against those inequalities.

"For me, it’s all about relationships," Jeremy said. "I believe teaching is about guiding our students to becoming good human beings who care for those around them and have a lifelong love of learning.”

Jeremy’s goal as a teacher is to create an atmosphere where students can be themselves and feel free and safe to explore new ideas. He has modeled this by creating videos to show his students it’s okay to explore new ideas. According to his principal, “Jeremy has brought joy to the classroom during a very difficult year by meeting students where they live using Tik Tok and other methods to communicate with students.” 

As a 9th grade English teacher, Jeremy has brought joy and enthusiasm to the classroom and excitement to learning. He exhibits a thirst for learning by taking a leadership role as a Global Professional Development team lead for his school. By doing this, his knowledge, skills, and techniques will add even more to his students’ education.  

Jeremy has gone above and beyond to recognize culture and ethnic diversity in a systematic way to add to his understanding. As he becomes a more seasoned teacher, his hope is that his students grow not only academically but also emotionally - becoming more empathic and thoughtful adults when they graduate and leave school.  

Southwest Educational Cooperative.          #TeachArkansas

Mckinley James: Striving for Effective Ways to Teach and Grow as an Educator

Rilee Patrick

Mckinley James, a seventh-12th grade business teacher working at Dumas Junior High in the Dumas School District, was recognized several months ago as the novice teacher of the month. A novice teacher is any licensed or unlicensed teacher with less than three years of classroom teaching experience. 


“I am excited to be recognized as the novice teacher for the month of September through the Southeast Arkansas Cooperative office as well as featured with all of the wonderful stories that matter,” Mckinley said, adding that he’s glad to be part of the teaching profession which allows him to impact young lives.

"As a novice teacher and a recent graduate from Arkansas State University with a degree in business marketing, I find it a very pleasurable experience to shape the minds of junior high students," he said. "I have always known education to be an area upon which I would someday embark upon but only at the right time in my professional career. As a result, my passion for learning as I teach others has begun to propel me as a classroom teacher."

While earning his Masters of Arts in Teaching at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Mckinley began the paradigm shift into becoming more of a reflective practitioner as he navigates the pathway of research-based best practices in the classroom. 

"Professional Learning Communities on my campus provide me the opportunity to learn in an environment that is risk free and full of support for my new learning and for that I am grateful," he said. "Moving forward, I will continue to strive for effective ways to teach my students while learning through reflective practice."

Submitted by Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative         #Teach Arkansas

Rilee Patrick: Creating a Safe, Caring and Fun Learning Environment

Rilee Patrick

Rilee Patrick teaches second grade at LISA Academy Springdale.  She stands out as the type of teacher any parent would hope to have for their child.  She knows how to make learning fun; ensuring students get a balanced education, with meaningful science and social studies engagement as well as the core curriculum. 

Because she exceeds in classroom management, planning and preparation, she is able to incorporate engaging activities, which make learning enjoyable for her students, who get to build, create, collaborate, and experiment with hands on activities routinely.  

While academic growth is important to Rilee, the desire to create an environment where students feel safe and cared for, while having fun learning, is what drives her and has attributed to the great academic progress achieved by her students. While recently visiting her at LISA Academy-Springdale, a fellow staff member said, “I love to watch Ms. Patrick’s students at recess. They know teamwork and how to play together.  Everyone is included.  It’s really fun to watch.”  This is a testament of success in teaching.

Submitted by Arkansas Public School Resource Center (Selena Mitchell, teacher mentor)  #Teach Arkansas

Isela Mercado-Ulloa: Helping Students Create a Vision for a Brighter Future 

Isela Mercado-Ulloa

“Growing up in Arkansas in the mid-90s made me realize how different I was from the other students and their families. I didn’t speak English or understand the culture, and I suffered from self-esteem issues. Along the way, I’ve had incredible teachers who guided and pushed me to be the best version of myself, personally and academically,” says Isela Mercado-Ulloa, a teacher at Har-Ber High School in Springdale . She gives credit to Mrs. Tracy Reed, Mrs. Cindy Whitaker, Dr. Jeanette Arnhart, and Dr. Freddie Bowles for supporting her and helping her "realize I could take my potential and channel it to helping other young students create a vision for a brighter future as well as fulfilling it.” 

Isela is in her seventh year in education and currently teaches AP Spanish Literature and Spanish II at Har-Ber High School. “Through my experiences as a Spanish teacher, I have grown to truly appreciate and value the uniqueness of every student. At the same time, they have inspired me to want to be the best teacher that I can be. My students have taught me some of the most important life lessons I thought I would be teaching them.”

Isela’s testimonial shows the impact that teachers can have on students and she strives to invest in her students the same way her teachers did. “Everyone is a teacher and a learner. Learning is gaining knowledge, skills, and discovering one’s own potential; it’s unlocking a world of possibilities and opportunities. Teaching others to learn entails helping students become confident in their abilities to succeed by helping them reach their short and long-term goals.”

The legacy of investing in students lives on in Isela’s mission and vision of teaching. “Everything should be centered on our students. They should always be the driving force because they will be our future - a reflection of all that we feel is valuable. They should always leave my classroom feeling that they matter, that they have grown, and that they can contribute in meaningful ways in all aspects that are important to them.” She also has a larger vision for teaching foreign language: “I have seen attitudes change about world languages and how they belong as individuals because they’ve come into the class feeling like it’s a safe and fun environment. I want to continue fostering a love for language learning, as well as self-improvement, by engaging them in meaningful interactions with others.”

Not only does Isela invest in her students, she also invests in her profession. She is a National Board Certification candidate. She is also a NWA Regional Spanish Poetry Slam judge and has been a committee member since 2014. Isela is a past president of the Alpha Chi Delta Alumnae Chapter of Gamma Eta Sorority and is a member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the Arkansas Foreign Language Teachers Association.

Submitted by the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.   #TeachArkansas

Tashena Tate: Making Students Feel at Home in the Classroom 

Tashena Tate

When her students walk into Tashena Tate’s classroom, they know they are home. Tashena is a sixth grade literacy teacher at Walnut Ridge Middle School in the Lawrence County School District. This 17-year teaching veteran cherishes each day that she can connect with her students. With both National Board Certification and Lead-Teacher Professional Educator Designation, it is apparent that she takes a serious approach to her chosen profession.  Always quick to embrace new methods of teaching and to incorporate techniques that might increase student engagement, Tashena's classes are charged with energy and a genuine excitement about what will be learned. Her principal, Jason Belcher, spoke of the impact she has had on their school noting his appreciation for “her leadership and desire to improve education at the elementary level.”

During the weeks of quarantine in the early days of the pandemic when school was closed and teaching pivoted to virtual learning, she worried about her students and advocated getting back into the classroom as soon as it was deemed possible. Having developed a close relationship with her students, she was aware of the challenges that many of them met. Staying connected with them during that time was a priority. Tashena says her goal always is to meet the social emotional needs of her students so that their academic needs can be met. "When you inquire about their mother who you know has been sick, they realize that you care,” says Tashena. “Out for snow - great,” she continues, “but do my kids have heat at their homes?” Out of sight does not mean out of mind to this dedicated educator. She noted that at the end of a regular school day, she often carries with her academic and personal concerns related to her students. That, she says, is probably the hardest thing about being a teacher. 

Connecting virtually with her students proved far less a challenge than it could have been. “Kids love technology,” says Tashena, who also loves technology. By modeling her philosophy that every day is a good day, learning did take place as usual - even remotely. There were plenty of "aha moments" along the way and that’s what a teacher lives for, she says.

When asked what attribute a teacher needs to be successful, Tashena replies without hesitation, “commitment” - seeing education as an all-in proposition. She notes that she sees this quality in the teachers who she works with, asserting that their commitment and dedication inspire her daily.  “Teaching is a calling that is richly rewarding,” Tashena says. The payoff often comes in the form of words of thanks from former students who recall certain memories or words that perhaps reference the days when they were once “at home” in her classroom.

Submitted by Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative.       #TeachArkansas

Zachary Anders: A "Meant to be" Teacher

Zachary Anders

Before becoming a teacher, Zachary Anders taught Children’s Church and directed Vacation Bible School. While in the mentoring program at South Central Service Cooperative, Zachary was known as one of our “meant to be” teachers, which means being an educator is a calling for him. After beginning his teaching career in El Dorado, he’s now teaching first grade in his hometown and making great things happen at Hampton Elementary in the Hampton School District. From the start, Zachary has shown an understanding of how to build relationships with his students and their families so that he can plan instruction and support students based on individual needs. 

This “meant to be” teacher has unlimited passion for bettering himself, his school, and his community. After completing his bachelor’s degree in education at Southern Arkansas University, he began post-grad work in their Educational Leadership in Administration and Supervision program. He’s scheduled to graduate this April.

Zachary chairs his school’s Personnel Policy Committee and is known for building school spirit by decorating hallways and brainstorming ways to get students excited about school. Working with the community in his hometown is also a priority. He is chair of Hampton’s annual Hogskin Holidays parade committee, sits on the Calhoun County Fair Board, works part-time at Hampton Medical Pharmacy, still works in his church, and just began his own business, Events by Zachary, LLC.

When asked how teaching has changed for him due to the pandemic, he replied: “Education is important with or without a pandemic. Is it hard? Most definitely! There have been days where I wanted to call in sick because I have been exhausted, and I didn't feel like coming to work. But I thought of my students instead, and it isn't fair to them. They are the reason why I am here today. I have learned that life goes on with or without you. You must put yourself first. However, I have also seen how kids are resilient! It is truly amazing! Kids are amazing! Are there still some areas that we are lacking? Yes! But with time, patience, and love, we will get there.” 

There are probably a few “meant to be” people reading this who may be interested in teaching. Please reach out to a principal in your area, the recruitment facilitator at your local Educational Service Cooperative, or speak to an advisor at DESE by following this link - Speak to an Advisor. Take the advice that Zachary has for anyone interested in becoming a teacher: “Get involved in a school as a parapro or a substitute to be sure that it is something that you want to do. Education is definitely not a profession for the faint of heart. It is literally a job that you have to love in order to do it because it consumes so much of your time and thought process.” The satisfaction of growing young minds is worth the investment. 

Submitted by the South Central Service Cooperative.       #TeachArkansas

Cedra Flake: Molding Students’ Minds and Boosting Staff Morale

Cedra Flake

Cedra Flake has a 33-year teaching career that has taken her from Baton Rouge to Dallas, to Fort Smith to Kansas City, to Pine Bluff to Connecticut, and luckily for the students and staff of Howard Elementary, back to Fort Smith. As the daughter of an educator, this was her logical path. 

Cedra is a natural born teacher, motivator and speaker. From engaging lessons with her fifth grade students to inspirational presentations to her peers during professional development, her excitement for the subjects being presented shines brightly each time she stands in front of an audience.

Cedra serves as a member of the school leadership team and as the chairperson of the school's Partners in Education (PIE) team. As the PIE chairperson, she coordinates monthly meetings with local leaders and businesses to discuss ways that they can help meet the needs of their high poverty school and community. 

During this season of COVID-19, Cedra noticed that teachers and staff at Howard Elementary needed to stay motivated and strong. Numerous new tasks have been placed upon them to keep themselves and their students healthy and safe. Seeking donations from local businesses, family, friends, her church, and often going into her own pocket, she created weekly staff morale boosters by placing free snacks in the lounge with encouraging signs to help the staff stay motivated and appreciated.

When she's not molding the minds of students or boosting the morale of staff, Cedra spends most of her time with her family. She and her husband, Jackie, are hometown missionaries. In fact, each change in her teaching path has been to support her husband through seminary and serving in campus ministry at various locations, including the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The couple has four beautiful daughters and one granddaughter.

Cedra is a lifelong learner with a growth mindset who is always ready to try something new. Thankfully, she has recognized her leadership qualities and is currently pursuing a degree in Educational Leadership. She is scheduled to achieve her certification in Educational Leadership in the summer of 2021.

Submitted by Guy Fenter Education Cooperative.         #TeachArkansas 

Justin Neel: Making Learning Real for Students

Justin Neel with small toy snowmen

After spending three weeks in a business job, working in a cubicle, Justin Neel knew that he wanted to teach. Seven years later, Justin has built a hands-on learning environment for his business and marketing students at Caddo Hills High School. “I believe by giving students opportunities to experience what they are learning, it will make the greatest impact. Know it. Show it. Grow it,” That’s the philosophy for a program that has gotten $300,000 in grants for Caddo Hills School District and a $1.6 million broadband grant for the community.  < /p>

Justin began his “real” classroom environment by allowing his students to open a store, develop products to sell in the store, market the products, and manage all aspects of the “business”. Working with a science teacher, Justin received an $89,000 grant for engineering. Now the engineering students design and fabricate products, and his students market and sell them. Recently students began creating TikTok video ads for their store. 

From this beginning, Justin and his students have expanded their impact. The Glenwood Chamber of Commerce office is currently located in the Caddo Hills High School and managed by Justin’s students. This partnership provides invaluable experience for students who create newsletters, logos, ads, and answer phones, as well as providing a service to their community. Justin was recently voted president of the local Chamber of Commerce. /p>

Besides taking students to regional and national competitions through Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and having a student currently serving as state FBLA vice president, Justin continues to allow students to pitch their business ideas and then develop those that are viable. “One of my students is now working with an embroidery machine that was in a closet and learning how to use it to create custom shirts and other items to be sold through our store,” Justin noted.  

Another big idea this creative teacher’s students have brought to reality is an Escape Room Bus. Rather than sell an older bus, the district allowed Justin’s students to keep it, redo the inside with help from the Agriculture department, and design Escape Rooms developed by the Gifted and Talented classes. The bus travels to fairs, the DeQueen-Mena Education Cooperative, and other events as a portable escape room, educational tool, and fund-raiser.   /

Justin is the real deal in making learning real for all his students.  One student summed up her experience: “I never imagined I’d run a store. It will better my future, for sure.”  And that is the goal.

Submitted by DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative           #TeachArkansas

Emmanuel Wade: Living a Purposeful Life as a Teacher and Coach

Emmanuel Wade

According to Emmanuel Wade, “love, care, and concern are concepts of a universal language that all people can feel and understand.” Any individual who crosses paths with Coach Wade experiences all three of those concepts – parents, students, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Emmanuel returned to his alma mater, Lee High School in Marianna, to teach art and coach basketball a few years ago. This career change is all part of a journey that he believes has prepared him with an innate ability to “coach up” the students and athletes he works with. 

After graduating from high school, Emmanuel attended the University of Mississippi where he played basketball and earned a bachelor’s degree in art/graphic design with a minor in criminal justice. After working as a crisis intervention specialist and mental health paraprofessional, Wade was looking for a way to coach basketball. “My initial reason to become a teacher was so that I’d be eligible to coach high school basketball,” Emmanuel said. “My desire was simply to coach basketball until I realized how much of a difference teachers make in the lives of our youth. I truly believe that becoming an educator has allowed me to live life with such purpose.”

Emmanuel was recognized by the Marianna Regional Chamber of Commerce as 2020 Teacher of the Year.

His life experiences are integral to his success as a teacher and coach. Emmanuel understands the importance of building rapport with youth. “I see the big picture and look beneath the surface to get to the core so that my interactions with the student body are genuine,” he said. With genuine interactions based in love, concern, and care, he earns his students’ trust and develops strong, nurturing and healthy relationships with the youth that he serves daily. “If you can earn their trust, you can teach any philosophy,” Emmanuel said.

While he is certainly making a difference as an individual, Emmanuel believes that we all share the responsibility of educating our youth. “It doesn’t matter the field in which you work, just make sure that you spend some time sharing the responsibilities of  educating, advocating for and nurturing our youth. I feel like it’s our humanly mandated duty to do so. Play your part. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution, but you can’t straddle the fence on this one.”

Submitted by the Great Rivers Education Service Cooperative.         #Teach Arkansas

Kaitlyn Cannedy: Proud of the Success of Her Pre-Educator Program Students

Kaitlyn Cannedy

When considering careers in high school, Kaitlyn Cannedy knew she wanted to help people and make a difference in lives, so she thought entering the medical field was the way to do that. She attended Henderson State University and soon determined that medicine was not her calling and changed her major to Family and Consumer Science. Her advisor wisely encouraged her to take a few education classes, and she soon realized that being a teacher was exactly the plan God had for her. “I am very thankful for my advisor's ability to see my potential and encourage me to pursue it, so that is my goal as a teacher,” she said.

Kaitlyn is in her fourth year teaching the Pre-Educator Program at Lakeside High School in the Lakeside School District. During her first year, there were 23 students in the program. This year that number has grown to 62 students. She credits the growth and success to the support of her colleagues and administration.

The goal Kaitlyn has for her students is that they explore the possibility of being an educator. To help them reach that objective, she provides network opportunities within the district.

Students in class

She also emphasizes to students that the ultimate goal is to grow as a person. Whether they end up in education or not, the skills and experiences that they gain throughout the program are transferable to countless careers and opportunities in life. Administrators and media specialists frequent the classroom to teach, students shadow an administrator, and they complete at least 100 hours of field experience before finishing the program.

During the 2019-2020 school year, nine of Kaitlyn's students passed the Praxis Paraprofessional exam and five students became Certified Teaching Assistants. Twelve of her Pre-Educator students have graduated and are now pursuing degrees in education and three students teach at local preschools and camps.

Kaitlyn is incredibly proud of the Pre-Educator program and the success of her students. She looks forward to many of them working alongside her in the future.

Submitted by the Dawson Education Service Cooperative           #TeachArkansas

Marva Crater: Striving to Reach and Motivate Every Child

When Marva Crater was a third grade student, her elementary school counselor, told her, “I see something special in you.” What the counselor saw was an individual with the academic talent to excel, the drive to overcome obstacles, and the spirit to nurture others.  The counselor mentored Marva for the next 10 years and encouraged her to become a teacher.

Today, she is pumping that same encouragement into her own third grade students at L.L. Owen Elementary School in the Watson Chapel School District. Although it is challenging, Marva is relentless about finding a way to reach every child. She burns the midnight oil to find modifications and other instruments to motivate and help her students.

After 32 years as a teacher, Marva says, “Sometimes you must let go of old attitudes and learn new techniques for the current generation.” For her, that has included increasing her use of technology which she describes as “awesome.” 

Marva wants her students to know that they are valuable. “When students see their progress in class, they own it. They know that progress represents who they are and what they are capable of,” she explains.

She leads her students to affirm their own value with daily affirmations including, “I am strong”, “I care”, and “Character is who you are”.  “The daily life of teacher during this pandemic can be exhausting but when I see my students making progress and owning their value, it makes all of the hard work worth it,” Marva says.

Submitted by the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative           #TeachArkansas

Hannah Lopez: Leading Students in the Art of Self-Expression

Hannah Lopez recalls that she was in a college chemistry class on a fast track to becoming a veterinarian and "lost as ever in a lecture about molecules," when she realized she wanted to be a teacher. Her professor's love of his profession (and not her love of his content) solidified her desire to experience that love. 

She now works as a first-year art teacher at Cloverdale Middle School in the Little Rock School District. So, how did she end up with her current subject and age group?

"Middle school and art picked me," she insists. "Art has this way of taking what is inside and putting it outside for you to process and others to see. I love the healing properties, the community, and the pure essence of life that is birthed in art." Regarding middle school, she says that it was the school itself and not necessarily the level that drew her in. "I knew in the interview with Cloverdale that I wanted to be there. There was a sense of true care for the students and dedication to the mission. I can't explain - but I knew this was the place for me." 

Hannah likens the art of teaching and the learning process to cooking. "You know you need to eat, and you know you need something to eat. What you don't know is how to prep and how to cook the food." She prides herself on teaching students which tools create, which appliances cook and how it happens, and what to do after they have eaten. Her goal for her students is for them to learn to create art for themselves. The creating? "That is up to them," she says, "I am simply leading them as they 'cook' the art."

Submitted by the Little Rock School District             #TeachArkansas

Jasmine Wilson: Changing the Lives of Students and Families

When asked "Why teaching?" Jasmine Wilson responded: “I know who I needed in high school and now I get to be that for my students."

Her master’s degree and previous experiences are in higher education, but Jasmine always felt a calling to K-12 public education. She is in her second year at Morrilton High School as a Survey of Business teacher and the Workbase Learning coordinator. In her current role, Jasmine is changing the lives of students and families by helping students discover their skills and interests and then connecting them with internship and employment opportunities in the community. 

When she saw that not all students had the same access to professional attire and accessories, she started a clothing closet to help meet that need. Jasmine was recognized by her colleagues as the Morrilton High School 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year, but more importantly she’ll be recognized by her students for years to come as a teacher who made a difference. 

Submitted by the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative          #TeachArkansas

Jamie Taylor: Helping Students Succeed in Life and Literacy

Jamie TaylorJamie Taylor teaches sixth grade literacy at Southwest Middle School for the Searcy School District. She has been teaching for 15 years and English has always been a passion of hers. After college Jamie had dreams of going overseas to work in missions. She realized that dream when she traveled to China to teach English. Now Jamie loves teaching her middle school students.

“I truly enjoy introducing students to great literature and characters who seem to connect with kids in a way that goes beyond the surface and inspires hope and vision for the future,” she said.

Jamie displays a strong dedication to her students. She not only sees the importance of igniting a love for the English language, but fosters a supportive social emotional atmosphere as well.

The Wilbur D. Mills Education Service Cooperative recently held a contest for teachers within the co-op. Teachers were asked to record a video of themselves with a tip that has proven successful during the current pandemic. Jamie’s video received Grand Champion honors for her ability to address the social emotional needs of her students during this heavy time. View Jamie’s video.  

Submitted by the Wilbur D. Mills Education Service Cooperative.           #Teach Arkansas

Lydia Windsor: A Wonderful Role Model for Students

Lydia WindsorLydia Windsor is celebrating her third year as a physical education teacher at Fouke Elementary in Fouke, Arkansas. Lydia loves her students and makes every effort to get to know them in order to engage them in class. She is enthusiastic and a wonderful role model for her students.

Lydia goes above and beyond to design fun lessons that not only incorporate physical activity but content specific material as well that her students enjoy. She believes in continuing her education and is currently working towards her master’s degree. Lydia designs virtual dance videos including other teachers on staff to help keep students moving.

If you ask her why she became a teacher, Lydia will tell you, “I became a teacher because I love being around kids! My two favorite things about my job are the kids and the teachers. I work with amazing people and my goal is to make everyone feel they have a place and are loved.”

Submitted by the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative.             #Teach Arkansas

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 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


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

For more information, please contact: 

Venus Torrence, Educator Impact Coordinator
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Educator Effectiveness
Four Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: 501-683-4786