Finalists named for teacher of the year

August 24, 2017
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Fourteen teachers from districts large and small across the state have been named regional finalists for the title of 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

The teacher finalists will be honored at a state Capitol ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key will preside over the event during which the 14 candidates for the singular state honor will be narrowed to four.

“As we work to transform Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education, we must recognize and celebrate teachers who have demonstrated educational excellence,” Key said in announcing the names of the 14 Wednesday. “I am extremely proud of these regional finalists and for the example they have set for their students, colleagues and future educators.”

The finalists, their employment and the state education service cooperative that defines their region are:

• Kim Armstrong, a kindergarten through second-grade teacher at Wynne Primary School, Crowley’s Ridge Education Service Cooperative.

• Brittany Berry, a sixth- and seventh-grade Environmental and Spatial Technology teacher at Helen Tyson Middle School in Springdale, Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

• Cameron Blackwood, 10th- through 12th-grade science teacher at Clarendon High School, Great Rivers Education Service Cooperative.

• Brandy Browning, ninth-grade science teacher at Magnolia Junior High, South Central Service Cooperative.

• Kirby Childress, sixth-grade math teacher at Pinkston Middle School in the Mountain Home School District, Northcentral Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

• Anne Formby, 10th- through 12th-grade math teacher at Arkansas High, Texarkana School District, Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative.

• Shannon Holeyfield, ninth-grade English teacher and ninth- through 12th-grade yearbook sponsor at Searcy High, Wilbur D. Mills Education Service Cooperative.

• Judy Holland, ninth-grade English and ninth- through 12th-grade alternative learning environment teacher at Walnut Ridge High in the Lawrence County School District, Northeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

• Randi House, a kindergarten teacher at Theodore Jones Elementary School in the Conway School District, Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative.

• Amanda Jones, 10th- through 12th-grade science teacher at Poyen High, Dawson Education Cooperative.

• Beth Maris, 10th- through 12th-grade science teacher at Central High in the Little Rock School District, Pulaski County.

• Mollie Sanford, 10th- through 12th-grade family and consumer science teacher at Dumas New Tech High, Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

• Tasha Shoate, third-grade teacher at Cavanaugh Elementary in the Fort Smith School District, Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative.

• Morgan Wilson, 10th- through 12th-grade math teacher at Sheridan High, Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative.

The Arkansas Teacher of the Year program recognizes teachers for strong teaching and leadership skills. The 14 named Wednesday are among nearly 40 teachers who applied for the honor based on their designations as teacher of the year in their local school systems.

Courtney Cochran, a Spanish teacher in the Van Buren School District, is the 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

This year’s regional finalists will receive a $1,000 award. The finalist ultimately selected in the fall to be the 2018 Teacher of the Year will be awarded an additional $14,000 and the opportunity to participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition. The awards to the Arkansas teachers are made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation of Bentonville.

After next week’s ceremony in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the state Capitol building, a state selection committee will visit the four semi-finalists at their schools to observe them at work and to interview them and their school administrators. After the four state semi-finalists are announced, the selection committee will conduct site visits.

A surprise notification announcing the 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year will be held later this fall.

In addition to the recognition ceremony, a reception for the regional finalists will be held in Room 207 at the Capitol immediately after the ceremony.