Teacher Corps Fellow a Finalist for Top New Educator

Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellow Courtney Howard (right) stands with her students at the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative Reading Fair in Hope, Arkansas. Howard's students placed first at the fair.
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Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellow Courtney Howard (right) stands with her students at the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative Reading Fair in Hope, Arkansas. Howard's students placed first at the fair.

Courtney Howard, a 2016 Arkansas Teacher Corps fellow, has been named one of five finalists for the Outstanding New Educator of the Year award of the National Association for Alternative Certification.

Each year, in conjunction with its annual conference, the alternative certification association recognizes the accomplishments of three excellent new educators who were prepared and certified through a non-traditional teacher licensure program. According to award guidelines, nominees should be "exemplary teachers who show passion and commitment to the success of every student" and must submit a written statement, three letters of recommendation and a video of classroom instruction.

Award winners participate in the conference, and each of the three receives $1,000. This year's conference, "Addressing Teacher Shortages and Diversity through Alternate Routes," will be March 27-30 in Washington, D.C.

Howard is in her third year of teaching at Hope High School in Hope, Arkansas, as an English language arts and Advanced Placement English language and composition teacher. She also serves as Student Council sponsor, guiding students responsible for planning homecoming, prom, fall festival, blood drives and other service projects.

"My first year was incredibly challenging, overwhelming and — in the moments I will cherish forever — rewarding," said Howard. "No matter what obstacle or challenge came my way, I always knew support was available at any time I needed it."

"You often hear that teaching can make some feel like they are on a little island trying to survive on their own. This is especially true for new teachers who fear reaching out due to judgment, doubt or the expectation of being able to make it on their own. I am grateful to Arkansas Teacher Corps for being an organization grounded in support and a shared vision for equity in all schools for all students."

Howard is a 2012 graduate of Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

The teacher corps addresses teacher shortages in high-need districts based on geographic regions and specific critical content areas designated by the Arkansas Department of Education. Its mission is to recruit, train and support exceptional, social justice-oriented individuals to serve as teachers for Arkansas students who need them the most.

"ATC teachers come to Hope High School better prepared than any other first-year teachers I have hired," said Principal Bill Hoglund. "The support system from ATC helps our teachers become better teachers almost immediately."

Hoglund, who nominated Howard for the award, credits her success to her skills in engaging students, creating a collaborative learning culture and collaborating with colleagues.

"Courtney's ability to work collegially with our staff has enhanced our entire English department, and her willingness to take the lead in team meetings has impacted our school culture. I cannot say enough good things about her work ethic, determination and impact on students."

According to Hoglund, Howard's ninth-grade English students have consistently scored the highest at the school on the ACT Aspire exam.

Since the program began in 2013, Arkansas Teacher Corps has recruited, trained and supported more than 125 teachers who have served more than 10,000 students in 30 Arkansas public school districts. Corps educators have taught more than 750 courses, led more than 100 clubs or teams, and written more than 15 classroom grants. Moreover, eight corps teachers have been named Teachers of the Year by their districts.

To become an Arkansas Teacher Corps fellow, applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree in any major, a record of academic success and a community-focused mindset emphasizing leadership and service learning. Fellows attend a rigorous seven-week residential summer training, which includes more than 150 hours of professional development and clinical practice as a summer-school teacher.

Individuals selected as fellows commit to teaching for three years in a high-need school district, must pass all required educator licensure tests, and participate in ongoing professional development and coaching throughout their fellowships. Upon successful completion of the program, fellows receive the standard five-year teaching licenses.

The teacher corps is a partnership among the University of Arkansas, Arkansas Department of Education and 23 school districts in the state. Its funding comes from a collaboration among the U of A College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation and the state Education Department as well as individual donors through the Arkansas Teacher Corps Society.

The corps is accepting applications for the 2019 Fellowship. College seniors and degree holders of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to apply. Applications and additional information can be found on its website Join page.

Contacts

Brandon Lucius, executive director
Arkansas Teacher Corps
479-575-6418, blucius@uark.edu

Ben S. Pollock, communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-4554, bpollock@uark.edu

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