GRAVETTE -- Teachers of the Year at Gravette schools were honored at the regular meeting of the Gravette School Board Monday evening, April 19. Teachers were introduced by school superintendent Maribel Childress, who gave a brief profile of each one. Each teacher was presented with a bouquet of flowers by board president Heather Finley and all will receive plaques when they are completed.
Teachers of the Year for Gravette schools are Sue Cluck, Gravette High School; Jackie Galyean, Gravette Middle School, Emily Ensor, Gravette Upper Elementary; and Amber Sisemore, Glenn Duffy Elementary. All winners were rated on the state Teacher of the Year criteria and Emily Ensor's application rated the highest so she has been entered as the district's candidate for State Teacher of the Year. An announcement of the state winner will be made in the fall.
Sue Cluck, GHS winner, led professional development on technology integration. She is working to have Gravette designated as a registered Monarch City and is an advisor for the Environment Club, which puts together free bouquets to give to teachers and community members. Cluck has been involved with the Student Voice Institute through the Arkansas Leadership Academy. She likes to help students explore the realms of environmental stewardship to create lifelong compassionate environmentalists and brings in master naturalists and local businessmen to partner with her classroom.
Sue wants her lessons to reach beyond academics by working with invested community members and students from other classes, and she provides hands-on learning experiences and fosters a sense of empowering a community through service-oriented learning.
"It's important for students to know that they can make a difference in the world, no matter how small," she says. "I like to think that gardening and education are a lot alike. I truly believe that, through our everyday interactions with our students, we sow and nurture the seeds of righteousness, hope, creativity, wonder and civility with the greatest hope that they reap the reward later on in life. We must never give up, even on the roughest day of our school year. I hope all teachers know their value in the lives of those students."
Jackie Galyean, GMS Teacher of the Year, is a member of the grade-level math team that has consistently been number one in northwest Arkansas for sixth-grade math and is a member of the school leadership team. She attended the RTI and PLC Summits in order to provide professional support to peers and has been a mentor for a first-year math teacher. She likes to connect whatever the learning target is to something students can relate to in real life and find a way to connect what they're learning to something in the real world so they can make more sense of it.
"As teachers, we are constantly on the lookout for the well-being of our students," she said, "Passion is what makes a good teacher great and passion is what drives us to continue to do the work that we do."
Emily Ensor, selected Teacher of the Year at Gravette Upper Elementary, has a masters of reading degree and is a reading specialist and dyslexia interventionist. She was Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2017 in the Noel, Mo., elementary school. Her passion has always been reading and helping students who struggle with reading. She is co-chair of the Save Our Students Committee, leader of the Fluency Friday initiative and a leader in the Gravette Mentoring Program, the vision of which is to grow educators so that they have a desire to be a Lifelong Lion for students.
"Our students deserve longevity from our staff. They deserve the opportunity to build relationships with staff and know that they will be there to see through till graduation and beyond," Ensor said. She is a certified teacher in the Behavior Tools Class and participates in the district-wide snack pack distribution. From March 2020 through August 2020 she drove from house to house delivering snack packs to those in need.
"It's easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day teaching. I don't ever want to forget that under the surface, many of our students have struggles that we will never know about if we don't take the time to ask. I give my students the prompt, 'I wish my teacher knew ... ' every year. This lesson helps guide my instruction in ways a pretest never could. I am a firm believer that the instruction will come, but only after a relationship and trust is established," Emily says.
"Fifteen and twenty years down the road, I don't know that my students will run across me in public and say, 'Hey, do you remember that reading passage?' but they will say, 'Thank you for taking the time to get to know me and help me through whatever life was throwing at me then.' What we get to do day in and day out is a blessing. I am so thankful to be surrounded by those that were chosen to raise and teach our future generations," she concluded.
Amber Sisemore, Teacher of the Year at Glenn Duffy Elementary, is among the 3% of teachers nationwide who have achieved National Board Certification. She participates in the Solution Tree Professional Learning community, Arkansas Leadership Academy Team Institute and Arkansas Leadership Academy Teacher Institute. She was a Teacher of the Year in 2008-2009 and 2020-2021 and was nominated for Teacher of the Year three other times. Sisemore is a grade-level team leader who supports teachers with things they may need, both personally and professionally, to make sure the grade-level team is making progress toward and meeting team, school and district goals.
Sisemore is a PBIS Behavior Tools Instructor and supports teachers with student behavior using proactive methods intended to prevent or verbally de-escalate problem behavior before it becomes a bigger issue that requires intense intervention or support. She is a member of the building level leadership committee, the PTO, data committee and has been president of the Courtesy Committee for 14 years. She works to create a family atmosphere to support the staff and has a passion for serving the community, supporting people who may be going through a difficult time or need an extra hand. She created AR Palooza for K-2 students with the goal to motive students to read more books. It impacted students and they began to read more, were motivated to read more and increase their reading achievement.
"One of the best parts about teaching is seeing the 'lightbulb moments' in students," Amber says, "when they begin to understand something. Teachers are valued and needed. Our job is so much more than just teaching!"