Arkansas Teacher Corps Bids Farewell to Program's First Class of Teaching Fellows

The end of the 2015-16 school year marked a momentous occasion for the Arkansas Teacher Corps at the University of Arkansas as the program's original 15 Fellows from the 2013 class finished their third and final year of service to students and school districts in the state of Arkansas.

The teachers were congratulated at an event in North Little Rock with over 150 people in attendance.

The Arkansas Teacher Corps was founded by Gary Ritter, Endowed Chair in Education Policy in the Department of Education Reform, of the University of Arkansas' College of Education and Health Professions in 2012 as a means to alleviate the enormous teacher shortage that many Arkansas school districts face. Shortly into its development the project was turned over to its current Executive Director, Benton Brown. The program has seen steady growth in the number of teachers produced throughout Brown's four year tenure.  

The Arkansas Teacher Corps is similar in design and purpose to other teacher corps programs in that it recruits college graduates who are not necessarily from traditional education backgrounds and trains them to be competent and effective teachers. It places the teachers in school districts that struggle to hire and retain quality teachers but sets itself apart in a handful of ways - most importantly in the amount of time its teachers serve and the intensive summer training provided by the program.

The program believes its emphasis on a three-year commitment (most similar programs require two) will produce more career educators in the state of Arkansas – as the teachers gain more experience, confidence, and stronger connections to communities and students they serve in their three years.

Also, the program's specific commitment to the state of Arkansas allows for more effective training and placement mechanisms. The Arkansas Teacher Corps teachers, before officially setting foot in classrooms as licensed teachers, attend a rigorous six-week training institute where they work directly with Arkansas students who represent a very similar demographic to the students the teacher will be working with when they start their official placement.

In determining where the teachers will be placed, Arkansas Teacher Corps allows for teachers to voice their geographic preferences. The program is particularly fond of applicants willing to teach anywhere in Arkansas but also believes individuals with geographic limitations can still be effective teachers and still serve in districts demonstrating a high need.  

The 15 original Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellows who joined the program in 2013 represented a wide range of academic backgrounds and specialties but now share one thing in common in addition to their three years of service - all 15 have received a standard five-year teaching license from the state of Arkansas.

Although a handful of the group are unsure of what they will do next, at least 12 of the 15 will remain working in the field of education - 10 as teachers and six of those 10 teachers will continue working in their original placement districts - a major point of pride for the program. One original corps member will actually begin serving as the principal of their original placement district.

Whether or not their teachers continue working directly in the field of education, the Arkansas Teacher Corps believes that all Fellows will be lifelong advocates for equality in education. See below for a list of the 2013 corps members and where they taught.

Ashley Higginbotham Band/Music  Jacksonville Middle School
Phillip Blake Math/Computer Science Clarendon High School
Brittney Chesher English Hope High School
Casey Jenkins Science Maumelle High School
Candace Taylor English Forrest City High School
Dennis Felton Principal Premier High School
Emilianne Slamons Math Dermott High School
Jordan Humphreys English KIPP Delta Schools
Lindsey Trahan Math/Science Hope High School
Meyshana Lunon Elementary Sylvan Hills Elementary
Michael Zust Math Forrest City High School
Randi Curtis Art Prescott High School
Steven Bonds Math/Journalism Clarendon High School
Sara Osuna Math Maumelle High School
Will Chesher English Hope High School
Contacts

John Hall, program coordinator
College of Education and Health Professions
479-246-8562, jrh009@uark.edu

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