Stories That Matter Archive

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 Coop, Jessica partnered withOutstanding Novice Teacher awardthe 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 Jr.Mark 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 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

In 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.

"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 more information, please contact: 

Venus Torrence, Recruitment and Retention Program Advisor
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Educator Effectiveness
Four Capitol Mall, Box 5
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Phone:  501-682-3606
Fax:  501-682-5118