by Max Brantley
He's Justin Minkel, a Springdale second-grade teacher who has achieved success in bringing students who speak English as a second language up to grade level. He gets $15,000 with the award.
Full release on the jump.
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE
Governor Mike Huckabee today presented $15,000 to Justin Minkel of Harvey Jones Elementary School in Springdale for being named the 2006-2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year during a ceremony in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol in Little Rock.
"Mr. Minkel has managed to take students who have shown difficulties in achievement and turned them into some of the state's most eager learners,” Governor Huckabee said. “His ability to inspire students who are lower income and for whom English is a second language is impressive and makes him very deserving of the Teacher of the Year Award."
Up to 16 teachers are recognized as regional Teacher of the Year winners, thanks to a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to the Arkansas Department of Education. Winners are selected at the state level from teachers who are nominated by their local school districts. This year, Minkel was one of four state finalists from a competition involving 24 applications from 13 of the 15 regional service cooperatives and Pulaski County. One teacher is selected from each region and receives a cash award in the amount of $1,000. The Arkansas Teacher of the Year winner receives an additional $14,000.
“This ceremony is a highlight of each school year,” said Dr. Ken James, Arkansas Commissioner of Education, who assisted in the ceremony. “We are proud to honor some of our most outstanding teachers. The work they perform each day in their classrooms impacts students academically, socially and emotionally. That’s why teaching is one of the most challenging, rewarding professions there is.”
Legislation introduced by Governor Huckabee and passed during the special session of the 85th General Assembly in April changed the role of the Teacher of the Year. Previously, the recognition was largely ceremonial. Beginning with this year’s winner, the Teacher of the Year will take a year’s sabbatical from his school district to work in-residence at the Arkansas Department of Education. He will spend the year providing professional development and technical assistance to teachers around the state as well as serve as a non-voting member of the State Board of Education. Minkel will assume this role during the 2007-08 school year.
Minkel is a second grade teacher at Harvey Jones Elementary School in Springdale, where 93 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and 85 percent are minority. The majority of Minkel’s students speak English as a second language. “Mr. Minkel guides the students’ learning by differentiating instruction so that truly ‘no child is left behind,’” his principal, Debbie Flora, wrote in support of his application.
“At the beginning of second grade in 2004, 17 of my 25 students were below grade-level in reading as measured by the Developmental Reading Assessment,” Minkel wrote in his application. “By the end of my second year with these students, in May 2006, only three of the 17 students were below grade-level; 14 had reached or surpassed grade-level expectations in reading.”
Dr. Jim Rollins, superintendent of the Springdale School District, wrote in support of Minkel that, “He has engendered the deep respect and affection of the students and their families, and the great rapport he has developed with them helps him to teach the children to high levels.”
The three runners-up for this year’s Teacher of the Year award are
· First runner-up Terri Riley, an eighth and ninth grade English teacher at Hamburg Junior High School in Hamburg.
· Second runner-up Rebecca Keith, a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Ruth Doyle Intermediate School in Conway.
· Third runner-up Glenda Holifield, a high school chemistry teacher at Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro.