Kathy Powers, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School in Conway, was given the distinction of Arkansas’ Teacher of the Year at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on Friday.

Powers was nominated by her peers to represent Conway in the rank of outstanding teachers. She was submitted for review among 14 regional finalists by a committee of former teachers of the year and Arkansas Department of Education Office of Teacher Quality staff.

Those 14 were narrowed to four, all of which attended the ceremony for the live winning announcement.

First runner-up Therese Thompson is a fifth-grade teacher at John Tyson Elementary School in Springdale.

Second runner-up Karen S. Hart, is a high school biology teacher at Jonesboro High School, and third runner-up Mary Katherine Parson, a high school biology teacher at Central High School in Little Rock.

"I think I was chosen because I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m an energetic teacher and I have strong opinions about where public schools should go. I’m an advocate of this profession and I’m grateful for this opportunity," said Powers.

Julie Thompson, communications director at the Arkansas Department of Education, said the final four teachers are always "close on paper."

"The visits by the judging committee are what are used to determine the winner. Powers’ management in the classroom, enthusiastic teaching style and engagement of her students in the learning process all stood out as excellent to the committee," Thompson said.

Powers said her students have been known to appreciate the story-style method of teaching used to engage learners in events, both fiction and non-fiction.

"I try to make it interesting and I think I convey the interest and the energy to my students," said Powers.

Powers said there was not just a single teacher that affected her teaching style today, molded from 17 years in the practice.

"I was born in Alabama, and my father was in the navy. I went to 13 schools before I graduated."

Powers said she was able to collect her wide range of observations from many teachers and schools.

"Several stood out. I always appreciated a teacher who was genuine and really cared about what they were doing. I also think my mother helped me. She’s very organized and bossy."

Powers’ tenure as ATOY will begin in July of 2011 and end in July of 2012.

"I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing but I’ll play a non-voting role in the Department of Education. I’ll also travel and speak. I’m going to finish this year and someone will take over my class while I’m gone," Powers said.

According to a release by the ADE, Powers received a $15,000 cash award with her title, and she will represent Arkansas in the 2011 National Teacher of the Year competition.

She will spend part of the 2011-12 school year working in residence at the Arkansas Department of Education.

"This is a great day for all of our teachers in this district. Kathy represents the very best and we’re very proud of her winning this major recognition," Greg Murry, superintendent, said. "I think she has an excellent chance at the national finalist level. I think she is a wonderful representation of what a great teacher should be and she will represent the teachers in the State of Arkansas so very well.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)