Conway teacher named state semi-finalist

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CONWAY, Ark. — A Conway teacher has been named as a state semi-finalist for 2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Spence, first grade teacher at Theodore Jones Elementary School and Conway Public Schools’ District Teacher of the Year, is now one of four semi-finalists for the 2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Spence

The four finalists were announced today in a special ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion, after the 15 regional finalists were recognized by Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key.

“With so many outstanding educators, it can be difficult to pick just four for this honor,” Key said. “Each of these teachers exhibits excellence both in and out of the classroom. I congratulate each for their passion for teaching and their efforts to ensure all students achieve their best.”

Attending the celebration with Spence today was her husband Jeff and her mother, Gail Shrum, a retired teacher herself, Principal Dr. Tammy Woosley, Theodore Jones’ Instructional Facilitator Anna Schichtl, and Conway Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry. 

“The closer we got to the naming of the four finalists the more nervous I became,” said Tammy Woosley, Theodore Jones Principal, “not because I didn’t think she could achieve this, but because I wanted this recognition so badly for her for the amazing teacher and person that she is.”

Meanwhile in Conway, members of Theodore Jones Elementary staff came together at the school on their last week of summer break to excitedly watched the live stream of the event, cheering and screaming when Melissa’s name was called.

“There was no doubt for me that she would be in the final four,” said fellow first grade teacher Ashley Counce. “Just knowing how much she deserves this brought me tears of joy as I heard her name announced.”

“It is so exciting for Melissa to be chosen as a finalist,” said Dr. Greg Murry. “She is so deserving of this honor and no doubt she will compare very favorably with the other candidates.  Mrs. Spence is a great example of the quality of people in our district who serve our students well.”

Each semi-finalist received a certificate, medallion, and a $1,000 award at today’s ceremony. The ATOY Selection Committee will conduct site visits, to include classroom observations and interviews, over the next several weeks. The 2020 ATOY will be announced this fall. 

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