Kara Jones, fifth-grade math teacher at Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School in Conway, was named among the four finalists for the 2012 Teacher of the Year Award given by the state Department of Education.

"We’re delighted that Kara has been selected as one of the four finalists. She represents all of our teachers so very well," said Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent of Conway schools. "She is an excellent teacher and inspires her students to do their very best. In this honor, she represents every teacher here in Conway and the excellent work that they do."

Other state finalists were Matthew Garrett of Rogers, Shelina Marshall Warren of Pine Bluff and Kimberly Kaye Wilson of Monticello. 

A panel from the Education Department will recommend its choice for Teacher of the Year to state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell. The winner will be announced in November.

"Research shows the most important school-related factor affecting student performance is the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders," Kimbrell said Thursday in a news release. "Arkansas is fortunate to have thousands of extraordinary educators serving students across our state. These four teachers are among the best. Their value to our students and our state is immeasurable. We are pleased to honor their work and dedication through this recognition."

Jones has eight years of teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Christian Brothers University in Memphis. 

"I’m both honored and excited, not only for myself but for my school," Jones said. "I work with fabulous teachers and this is the second year in a row that a teacher from Simon has made hit this far. In fact, a teacher from our school won last year. It’s nice that the school is getting recognition."  

Kathy Powers, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Simon Intermediate, claimed the title of Teacher of the Year in 2011.

(A portion of this article was contributed by the Arkansas News Bureau. 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)