Trinina Pouncy, an alternative learning experience teacher at Ruth Doyle Middle School, has been named Conway Public School District’s Teacher of the Year.
Pouncy has worked as an educator for three years and teaches literacy and social studies at the school.
Principal Debi Avra said that Pouncy’s personal story is one of hard work and determination. Her life experiences filter into her daily work with students, Avra said.
“In three short years as an educator, Ms. Pouncy has won the heart and respect of all who have come to know her,” Avra said. “Today, instead of being ‘that little girl’ who needed the support and encouragement to make it, she is paying it forward and serving that role for others.
Pouncy knows first-hand the critical role adults play in schools, Avra said.
Other teachers honored as teacher of the year in their respective schools include:
Julie Walker, Sallie Cone Preschool: Walker teaches pre-K at the school and has been a lead teacher for years, having served one year as an instructional paraprofessional in preschool. Principal Brenda Mason said preschool takes a massive amount of time and energy, and Walker works diligently to achieve at their highest level. “Julie strives to give her children many opportunities and activities that they might not have been exposed to otherwise,” Mason said. “She is creative in her teaching, caring and understanding to all.”
Jennifer Sherrod, Ida Burns Elementary: Sherrod is a kindergarten teacher and has worked as an educator for 18 years. Principal Cindy Thacker called Sherrod “highly qualified” to deliver effective literacy instruction and cognitively-guided math while also embracing the unique personalities, talents and needs of the children. “Jennifer has a striking capability to reach troubled or struggling students with simple, yet profound maternal instincts and empathy, together with a high level of professionalism,” Thacker said. “Anyone who knows Jennifer also enjoys her great sense of humor, which was no doubt influenced by her dad, Jim Stone.”
Tracy Lakey, Woodrow Cummins Elementary: Lakey has worked as an educator for 12 years and teaches first grade at Woodrow Cummins. Principal Dayna Coleman said Lakey values each student’s ideas and opinions and creates a sense of community and belonging in her classroom. “She has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons,” Coleman said. Coleman attributed the 2012 founding of a pop-up tab program, which benefits Ronald McDonald House charities, to Lakey. “Through this community service project, she is teaching our students that even little things make a big difference,” Coleman said.
Sara West, Theodore Jones Elementary: West, a first-grade teacher at Theodore Jones, has worked in the classroom for three years. Principal Tammy Woosley called West “an exemplar teacher” who tirelessly gives of herself to both her students and the school. “Her compassion shows in everything she does, both inside and outside the classroom,” Woosley said. “A sign in Ms. West’s room says, ‘You are special because you are you!’ and that is how she makes each student in her room feel.”
Michaelia “Kelly” Honey, Carolyn Lewis Elementary School: Honey is a third grade student with four years of experience in the field of education. Principal Tina Antley said Honey’s love for her students is evident in everything she does. “From visiting sick students at home, to attending ball games, to patiently reteaching a concept countless times, she conveys to her students that they are important and can achieve anything,” Antley said. And Honey’s students don’t disappoint her — in 2011, every student in her classroom scored proficient or advanced on the augmented benchmark tests. “Ms. Honey truly inspires her students to be the best they can be,” Antley said.
Beverly Isacksen, Florence Mattison International Elementary: Isacksen is the school’s art teacher and has worked as an educator for 14 years. Principal Sam Nelson said that the words “nurturing and purposefulness,” best describe Isacksen’s approach to teaching. “She encourages and allows students to use their creativity through a variety of artistic media,” Nelson said. “This excitement for learning is readily apparent on the faces of the students as they busy themselves to complete projects.” Nelson called Isacksen’s classroom one of “joy and excitement for learning.”
Kim McClain, Julia Lee Moore Elementary: McClain has taught for nine years and is a teacher in the school’s special education self-contained class. Principal Cathy Dunn called McClain “the ultimate professional,” and said every school should be so fortunate to have a special education teacher like McClain working in their building. “She is great with children and their parents,” Dunn said. “Her enthusiasm and concern for her students’ education is exemplary.” McClain is constantly seeking professional development to enhance her skills and knowledge to better serve students with special needs, Dunn said. “Kim possesses those rare qualities you find in the best of the best,” she added.
Ryan Raup, Ellen Smith Elementary School: Raup is a first-grade teacher with four years experience in the field of education. Raup “loves teaching, 24/7,” according to Principal DeLanna Lacy. “His positive attitude is contagious and his work ethic is admired,” Lacy said. “As a result, he and his students experience the excitement of learning daily.” Raup’s leadership at the school doesn’t go without notice, Lacy said, as he is constantly assisting the building with his knowledge and skill. “He learns daily through analyzing his student’s data, asking questions and observing his fellow leaders,” Lacy said. Raup also serves as the coach of the school’s Little Dribblers team.
Heather Tollett, Jim Stone Elementary: Tollett is a special education teacher at Jim Stone and has worked as an educator for 17 years. Principal Mark Lewis said Tollett has a belief in her students and in their ability to succeed that is “second to none.” “What sets her apart from others in our profession is her ability to instill a sense of purpose in her students by having high standards for them academically, and by expecting them to be students of strong character,” Tollett said.
Melissa Claycomb, Marguerite Vann Elementary: Claycomb serves as the school’s counselor and has worked in education for 31 years. Principal Bobby Walker said Claycomb goes above and beyond the role of counselor, calling her “an advocate” for the safety and wellbeing of the students at Marguerite Vann. “In addition to testing and counseling, she volunteers to help the administrators, teachers, students and parents in any way she can,” Walker said. “Mrs. Claycomb is a dedicated, passionate educator and is truly deserving of the teacher of the year award.”
Vickie Bailey, Carl Stuart Middle School: Bailey is a fifth- and sixth-grade literacy and GT seminar teacher at the school and has worked as an educator for 25 years. Bailey is constantly evolving, Principal Harvey Benton said. “She is never satisfied with just the regular thing she has done in the past,” Benton said. “She is constantly engaging students at their own level. She encourages students to move from consumers of knowledge to constructors of their own knowledge.” Her teaching skills give students the tolls they need to discover the truth themselves, Harvey said. “She creates an environment where mistakes are viewed as part of the learning process,” he added.
Melinda Francis, Bob Courtway Middle School: Francis has worked as an educator for seven years and teaches seventh-grade language arts at the school. Principal Karen Lasker called Francis the epitome of teaching excellence. “She is the type of teacher who will drop everything she is doing to help a student or a colleague,” Lasker said. Fellow teachers describe Lasker as having a huge heart. “She is greatly respected and appreciated by them,” Lasker said. “Melinda is truly a class act, and it is a pleasure and great privilege to be able to share her with out family at Bob Courtway Middle School.”
Sloan Powell, Simon Middle School: Powell works as the school’s media specialist and has been an educator for eight years. “Mrs. Powell is a treasure to our whole school because her resources are not only her fine skills as a librarian, but her fine character,” Principal Renee Bennett said. Powell continually seeks to improve the atmosphere and practice in the school, and teachers always trust her discretion, her expertise and her unflagging loyalty, Bennett added. “She is not only a team player, but a cheerleader, a deep thinker, a passionate learner and a colleague well-esteemed by all,” Bennett said.
Weeji Niswonger, Conway Junior High School: Niswonger is a teacher of pre-advanced placement physical science and biology at the school. She has been an educator for 14 years. Principal Todd Edwards said Niswonger is dependable and trustworthy, and displays exceptional leadership skills, as well as a desire to be a team player. “Her rapport with students and parents is outstanding,” Edwards said. “Her creativity and differentiated instruction keeps students engaged and excited about learning.” Niswonger exemplifies great classroom management, Edwards added, and is fair, consistent and able to create a classroom environment conducive to learning. “To sum it up, she loves her students and her school,” he said.
Chad Terrell, Conway High School: Terrell teaches eleventh- and twelfth-grade advanced placement language and college writing at the school, with 11 years experience in the field of education. Principal Joel Linn called Terrell “one of the finest English and writing teachers in the state,” who cares about his students and developing not only their ability to write, but also and most importantly, their ability to be critical thinkers. “Students in Mr. Terrell’s class will leave with the skills that are necessary to succeed at the highest levels in college and in the professional world,” Linn said.
Christi Barnard, Conway Adult Education Center: Barnard teaches English as a Second Language at CAEC, and has 15 years experience as a teacher. Principal Ruth Ann Williams said Barnard is a very professional educator and has demonstrated repeatedly in the classroom and working with the state Department of Education committees, creating curriculum and frameworks for English as a Second Language classes. “We, at CAEC, are always proud of Christi in everything she does, from being an excellent teacher to being a great team player for the center,” Williams said.