An Alma Intermediate School teacher was recognized as the school district teacher of the year at an awards ceremony May 19.
Jo Ann Jordan, a literacy teacher at AIS, was revealed Friday as the Alma School District Teacher of the Year when Superintendent David Woolly opened a sealed envelope containing her name.
Jordan was chosen from four finalists as the Alma district teacher of the year by three educators from outside the district. No else knew the winner until it was announced Friday, Woolly said.
Jordan told the audience she was surprised at the honor, but thankful.
“I’m just so blessed and fortunate to work in this district,” Jordan said. “Our whole district has such amazing teachers and this could be any one of you.”
Jordan competed for the honor against campus teachers of the year Marla Sutton at Alma Primary School, Paul Wahman at Alma Middle School and Terry McGonigle at Alma High School.
Jim Fincher, Alma Education and Arts Foundation Board president, assisted in presenting awards and $200 checks to the four finalists. Jordan received an additional award and $500 check as the district teacher of the year.
Teachers and parents put forward nominations for teacher of the year for each campus, said Mike McSpadden, assistant superintendent.
After nominated teachers fill out an application, their campus peers vote to decide that school’s teacher of the year. Campus teachers then respond to five writing prompts from the state level competition, Woolly said.
A Siloam Springs high school teacher, a Springdale elementary school teacher and a Russellville middle school teacher made the final decision on the ASD teacher of the year, Woolly said.
Their decision was placed in a sealed envelope and unveiled at the awards ceremony.
Jordan was nominated by a parent who requested Jordan to teach her daughter this past school year.
In the nomination, the parent said that for her child, a difficulty learning to read since kindergarten had become “embarrassing and frustrating.”
“Mrs. Jordan was so understanding and optimistic,” the parent said. “She told me not to worry, that she would do wonderful and would have a successful year. Mrs. Jordan never once made my child feel like she wasn’t good enough at what she was trying to do.”
Within a few months, the child was reading at close to her projected reading level, the nomination states. The child not only continued to improve, but learned to enjoy reading, it states.
“Now she can’t wait to come home and read her library books to her little sister and loves trying to teach her how to read,” the parent said. “My child has this new love for reading and it is something that we could not have done without Mrs. Jordan.”
Jordan was recognized by the final judges for coordinating a bargain book sale at her school to make book ownership more accessible to students, and for connecting students to the community by adopting a soldier or visiting a nursing home.
“Jo Ann takes a personal interest in each of her students and creates meaningful activities that stay with them for a lifetime,” the judges state.
When asked by the judges what she hopes each student leaves with at the end of the school year, Jordan responded, “I just hope they know I care about them.”
Guest speakers at the awards ceremony were Johnny Key, Arkansas education commissioner, and Arkansas Teacher of the Year Meghan Ables, an eleventh grade English and journalism teacher from Stuttgart School District.
Arkansas’ teacher of the year serves on the state board of education. Ables spent her year traveling around the state visiting school districts and making reports to the state board, she said.
“It’s literally been one of the best years of my life,” Ables said.
Also recognized during the event were 11 teachers retiring at the end of the school year, and educators with 10 or more years of service to the school district.
Woolly was recognized as the longest tenured staff member with 45 years at ASD.
Jordan will go on to compete for the 2018 Arkansas teacher of the year.
A panel assembled by the Arkansas Department of Education will choose 16 regional finalists from district teachers of the year to compete, and the winner will be selected at the end of 2017.