May 1, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas Teacher Corps at the University of Arkansas introduced the first recipients of its fellowships at a reception in Little Rock on Tuesday, May 21.

The 22 recipients will take six weeks of intensive training this summer and begin teaching in high-need schools in central and south Arkansas in August. They must also pass the required Praxis exams to gain licensure in Arkansas. They will receive a $5,000 stipend per year from the program in addition to their teaching salary from the school district that hires them and are committed to the program for the next three years.

The program will address teacher shortages in high-need districts based on shortages in both geographic areas and specific content areas. District officials have noted the difficulty of finding enough qualified candidates to teach in content areas such as math and science as well as the difficulty of attracting qualified teachers to low socioeconomic areas of the state.

Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions, said the college takes very seriously its place in the university’s mission as a land-grant institution. He spoke at the reception in the Metropolitan Towers Building along with Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas commissioner of education.

“The idea for the Arkansas Teacher Corps came about because we know we must constantly seek and implement new ways of serving the children of our state with the best teachers we possibly can provide,” Smith said. “Arkansas Teacher Corps is a teacher-preparation program we designed to help Arkansas school districts in high-need areas fill open teaching positions. It will provide an accelerated path to teaching for talented people, and we expect it to have a lasting impact on economically disadvantaged students and communities in Arkansas.”

The program received 135 applications. Applicants were required to have a bachelor’s degree in any major and demonstrate academic success and service orientation, said Benton Brown, director of the program. Preference was given to applicants with an Arkansas connection, either having lived in the state or gone to college in the state.

“We are very excited about the intelligent and motivated group of individuals we have as our first group of Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows,” Brown said. “Their diverse experiences and backgrounds will be an asset to our partner districts in the state.”

The fellowship recipients:

  • Phillip Blake, Bear River City, Utah, doctorate, chemical engineering, University of Arkansas, 2012
  • Steven Bonds, Benton, bachelor’s degree, journalism, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Brittney Chesher, Omaha, Neb., bachelor’s degree, family and human services, John Brown University, 2011
  • William Chesher, Oklahoma City, Okla., bachelor’s degree, intercultural studies, John Brown University, 2013
  • Phoebe Cooper, Inola, Okla., bachelor’s degree, biology and chemistry, John Brown University, 2011
  • Dennis Felton, West Memphis, bachelor’s degree, interdisciplinary studies, Arkansas State University, 2012
  • Randi Henderson, Dallas, Texas, bachelor’s degree, studio art, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Ashley Higginbotham, Prescott, bachelor’s degree, music, Southern Arkansas University, 2013
  • Jordan Holtby, Harrison, bachelor’s degree, biology, Arkansas Tech University, 2012
  • Casey Jenkins, Little Rock, bachelor’s degree, biology, University of Central Arkansas, 2013
  • Victoria Le, Okemos, Mich., master’s degree, literary arts, Brown University, 2012
  • Meyshana Lunon, Benton, bachelor’s degree, speech-language pathology, University of Central Arkansas, 2012
  • Aaron Mickens, Indianapolis, Ind., bachelor’s degree, English, Philander Smith College, 2013
  • Sara Osuna, Springdale, bachelor’s degree, English, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Mia Pereya, bachelor’s degree, early childhood education, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Caleb Rose, Greencastle, Pa., doctorate, public policy, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Emilianne Slamons, Elkins, bachelor’s degree, mathematics, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Adam Sweatman, Van Buren, bachelor’s degree, English, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Candace Taylor, Dardanelle, bachelor’s degree, history, University of Arkansas, 2011
  • Lindsey Trahan, Huntsville, bachelor’s degree, biology, University of Arkansas, 2013
  • Kathryn Ward, Pea Ridge, bachelor’s degree, international studies, Arkansas Tech University, 2013
  • Michael Zust, Little Rock, bachelor’s degree, journalism, University of Arkansas, 2013

The program is working on placing teaching fellows in several potential partner schools and school districts including Clarendon, Dermott, Hope, KIPP Delta, Prescott, Premier Little Rock, Pulaski County Special, and Quest Pine Bluff. The fellows will work with mentors during their summer and training and throughout the school year. Gary Ritter, holder of the Twenty-First Century Chair in Education Policy, and Conra Gist, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, developed the program with Smith and Brown and will serve as faculty directors of the training program.

The program has the support of the Arkansas Department of Education and will collaborate with school districts and community organizations. Funding for the program has been made available through a collaboration between the College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.