Seven University of Arkansas teacher candidates recently surprised their public school mentor teachers with the news that they’d been chosen for Excellence in Mentoring awards for 2019-20.

U of A students in the teacher-education program spend either a full semester or year as interns in public schools across Northwest Arkansas for hands-on training before they have their own classrooms to manage.

Students normally deliver banners to their mentor teacher’s room, but this year the news couldn’t be shared in person.

“Zoom meetings have allowed us to celebrate the winning teachers with their entire teaching faculty, which has been powerful,” said Jake Ayo, director of field placement in the Office of Teacher Education. “The nominating interns have also joined to share a few words about their mentors. It has been really special.”

Ayo said the internship is the most crucial aspect of teacher-preparation programs and mentor teachers are the lifeblood of the experience.

“They go above and beyond in an already demanding profession as they pour their time and energy into crafting our interns into teacher leaders,” he said.

Being paired with a great mentor educator in local schools is vital to a student teacher’s success. To acknowledge that critical link, the university recognizes teachers who demonstrate a positive impact on teacher candidates’ development and P-12 student learning and development.

The Office of Teacher Education, in the College of Education and Health Professions, places approximately 900 students in nearly 15 school districts every year and also serves as the central source of information on Arkansas educator licensure requirements and regulations for U of A students and constituents.

The seven winning mentor teachers this year are:

Melody Butler, Asbell Elementary

Mentor teacher Melody Butler, Asbell ElementarySarah Hiegel, a student in the Special Education teaching program, nominated Ms. Butler.

“She exemplifies so many characteristics that a teacher and a mentor should possess,” Hiegel wrote in her nomination letter. “She is dedicated, passionate, caring, uses best practices, and is not only a great teacher to her students but also an amazing role model to me as her student teacher.”

Hiegel said Butler ensures that each student receives the appropriate services they need to best meet their goals. That includes the socio-emotional health of students “which can so often be overlooked,” she added.

“I learned how to manage my classroom appropriately, how to create a respectful learning environment and how to be a teacher who can create an environment that students know is a safe place to go,” Hiegel noted.

Amy Stufflebeam, Rogers High School

Bobbi Bodenhamer, a student in the Family and Consumer Sciences Education program, said Stufflebeam shows her love for her students through intentional conversations and delivering content in an enjoyable way, often going out of her way after school hours to serve them.

Bodenhamer said she was reminded of the adage, “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

“Mrs. Stufflebeam is a shining example of that; every person she surrounds herself with knows how much she cares,” she said.

Bodemhamer said her mentor teacher also pointed that care in her direction.

“She would explain the ‘why’ behind her feedback as well as provide me with tips or suggestions on how to move in the proper direction,” Bodenhamer said.

Casey Bazyk and Danny Burdess, New Technology High School

This co-teaching duo was nominated by U of A students Elizabeth Fletcher and Annelise Mozzoni, both graduate students in the Secondary Education Master of Arts in Teaching program. Bazyk and Burdess teach AP World History and Pre-AP English block classes.

In a PowerPoint presentation, the two U of A students highlighted the high school teachers’ ability to collaborate and advocate for arts integration and culturally responsive teaching.

“They are always looking for ways to incorporate student voice and interests by listening to their students,” Mozzoni said.

They also noted that their mentor teachers give high school students the opportunity to take ownership of their school through activities like student-led marketing and community service. Being intentional about this means students are able to learn leadership lessons, which builds confidence — particularly in students who don’t see themselves as leaders, they said.

Bazyk was commended for writing a grant to publish her creative writing students’ fairy tales in a book alongside illustrations she collaborated with the art class to create.

“They taught us that we are not just teachers of history or English, we are teachers of young people,” Fletcher said. “That is the most important thing and we are better teachers because we know them.”

Caryn Walker, Lee Elementary

Mentor teacher Caryn Walker and U of A student Isabel Mosley

Isabel Mosley, a student in the U of A Elementary Education program, said her mentor teacher listens to students’ input and adjusts, often providing multiple options to them.

“One example of this is her reward system that is decided by students, and every student in her classroom actively holds a job,” Mosley wrote in her nomination letter. “I have personally seen how having a job provides these students with a sense of purpose and pride, even getting upset if someone else tries to complete their job for them.”

Mosley said Walker has multiple strategies for classroom management and made procedures and expectations clear to students. “Because of this, her students could learn more effectively and her classroom ran smoothly,” she wrote.

Walker is also an advocate for her students, recommending them for counseling, mentorships, and other services, Mosley noted.

“[She] provided me tips to properly deliver whole-class instruction, small group instruction, intervention, and individual help,” Mosley wrote.

Mike Jelinek, Lee Elementary

U of A student Sean Cash, who’s studying to be a Physical Education teacher, noted in his nomination letter that Jelinek was a caring mentor to him and Lee Elementary students.

He said Jelinek invited students to eat lunch in the gym, broke down lessons as needed so all students could understand, and helped develop a team mentality among students to encourage positive peer relationships. Most of all, Jelinek made learning fun, he wrote.

“Many discussions were had on developing a rapport with the students and how to balance fun and discipline during class,” Cash wrote. “I learned many lessons from him that I plan on utilizing when I am teaching, regardless of what course it may be.”

Teresa Davis, Jones Elementary

Lexi Woodward, a student in the U of A Elementary Education Masters of Art in Teaching program, complimented Davis for taking the time to understand students as individuals and meet their unique needs.

“She creates a classroom environment that is safe and welcoming to all students at Jones,” Woodward wrote. “She utilizes every moment as intentional instruction in order to assist her students in achieving the high expectations.”

Woodward said having the opportunity to intern in Davis’ kindergarten class established “many crucial foundations within me about what effective teaching looks like.”

“Her ability to balance varied instruction with consistency is almost an art, and it was evident that students grew greatly in response to her instruction to meet those expectations set for all students.”

Woodward said her mentor teacher was also intentional in providing feedback and reflection on her student teaching.

“It was so encouraging to me how honest she was with me as well as building me up for future success,” Woodward noted.

U of A teacher candidates surprise Lee Elementary Excellence in Mentoring award winners, Caryn Walker and Coach Mike Jelinek