Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows started their training June 17 in Little Rock. They are from left, Victoria Le, Jordan Holtby, Mia Pereya, Emilianne Slamons, Caleb Rose, Lindsey Trahan, Aaron Mickens, Phillip Blake, Dennis Felton Jr., Casey Jenkins, Candace Taylor, Michael Zust, Phoebe Cooper, Adam Sweatman, Sara Osuna, Steven Bonds, Randi Henderson, William Chesher, Ashley Higginbotham, Brittney Chesher, Meyshana Lunon and Kathryn Ward. Photo by Jacob Slayton

Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows started their training June 17 in Little Rock. They are from left, Victoria Le, Jordan Holtby, Mia Pereya, Emilianne Slamons, Caleb Rose, Lindsey Trahan, Aaron Mickens, Phillip Blake, Dennis Felton Jr., Casey Jenkins, Candace Taylor, Michael Zust, Phoebe Cooper, Adam Sweatman, Sara Osuna, Steven Bonds, Randi Henderson, William Chesher, Ashley Higginbotham, Brittney Chesher, Meyshana Lunon and Kathryn Ward. Photo by Jacob Slayton

July 1, 2013

Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellows are working alongside Pulaski County Special School District teachers this summer to get ready for their own classrooms in districts in central and south Arkansas this fall.

The new teacher-training program established at the University of Arkansas kicked off six weeks of intensive training for the first recipients of its fellowships on June 17 in Little Rock.

The program will address teacher shortages in high-need school 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.

“The Arkansas Teacher Corps Summer Institute is off to a great start,” said Benton Brown, executive director of the program. “Our fellows have been able to gain valuable teaching experience and receive high-quality teacher training. We are thrilled about our fellows’ progress and are excited about the impact they will have in their classrooms this fall.”

Brown described three vital pieces that make up the Summer Institute: teaching experience in summer school classes, a lecture series about effective instruction delivered by faculty of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas and other education experts, and professional learning communities that allow the fellows to work together in small groups.

Fellows will spend the majority of their time in Pulaski County Special School District summer schools working with a summer school teacher.

“Later in the summer, they will be in charge of creating and delivering the instruction on a particular unit of study for their summer school students,” Brown said. “After their time in the summer schools, they will work on honing their skills through the lecture series and the professional learning communities, both of which will focus on important topics key to teaching effectively.”

The 22 recipients will 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.

Arkansas Teacher Corps Society Established

Arkansas Teacher Corps hosted a gathering on the morning of the first day for the fellows, supporters and faculty involved in the program and state education and government officials who talked about the necessity for alternative-licensure programs. The opening ceremony events took place at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.

Participating in a roundtable discussion were Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, which supports the program financially; state Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, a former teacher and counselor who serves on the House Committee on Education; John Brown III, president emeritus of John Brown University in Siloam Springs; and Vicki Saviers, a member of the Arkansas State Board of Education and former executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock.

Later in the morning, the fellows and others heard from speakers on three topics: “Teach” by Norman Whitfield, lead principal for Lighthouse Charter School in Jacksonville; “Serve” by Scott Shirey, founder and executive director of KIPP Delta Public Schools in Helena-West Helena; and “Commit” by Charles F. Robinson, vice provost for diversity at the University of Arkansas, and Jocelyn McDaniel, a literacy teacher at KIPP Delta Elementary School.

Gov. Mike Beebe attended a reception at a private home in the evening to show his support of the new program.

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

The Arkansas Teacher Corps Society was established to recognize individual donors who advance the program’s mission by making generous annual contributions. More information is available online.