Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen has been showing up in classrooms across Conway with 28-inch pizzas to honor outstanding teachers and their classrooms.
The Conway eatery at 2490 Sanders Road partnered with local radio station Y107 and Conway Public Schools in September to start the "Teacher of the Week" program that provides special recognition to teachers, principals and faculty members.
Parents and students nominate a teacher or school employee by sending an email to Y107 explaining why that person should be "Teacher of the Week," said Ben Allen, general manager of Russo’s.
The Y107 staff reviews all nominations, makes a selection and notifies the school district of the winner.
Then, each Friday morning, the selected winner is announced on-air, once before 8 and again after 8:30.
Russo’s provides dinner for two for the selected staff member, along with a 28-inch-pizza party for their classroom.
The winner is also mailed the original letter submitted by the nominator.
Ms. Stacy Taylor, a kindergarten teacher at Ida Burns Elementary was the program’s first winner, nominated by Kayla Claret of Conway.
Claret’s son first met Ms. Taylor when he attended kindergarten camp over the summer.
" . . . my son told me he wishes Ms. Taylor could be his teacher when school starts, and it just so happened she was," Claret’s nomination letter read. "She is a great teacher and my son loves going to her class."
Allen originally provided lunch for a "Business of the Week," but wanted to find a way to honor members of the community, so he partnered with Y107 and began honoring area teachers in September of 2013.
Russo’s also gave "free kids slice" coupons to Conway Public Schools elementary and middle schools in December for teachers to give to students for outstanding attendance or academic achievements.
Carroll Bishop, assistant superintendent of Conway Public Schools, said "Teacher of the Week" is a very nice program Russo’s has implemented.
"They really care about the community and the school district," he said. "I’ve been here for 35 years and Pizza Hut used to give kids free pizza — programs like this give kids incentives and it’s nice to work with businesses in the community and that we can support each other."
Dr. K.K. Bradshaw, director of administrative services for Conway Public Schools, was instrumental in arranging the "Teacher of the Week" opportunity, said Lauryn Smith, public relations manager for Russo’s Arkansas.
Bradshaw said Russo’s were the ones with this great idea, and the Conway Public Schools district was blessed to be able to partner with them and Y107 to help this come to fruition.
The original conversation began by recognizing teachers and/or administrators that had made a difference in a child’s life, Bradshaw said.
"I suggested that we also extend that to other adults in the building who have profound impact on kids, but may not necessarily be teachers or administrators," she said. "For example, school nurses, counselors, media specialists, cafeteria and office workers, as well as custodial staff impact children positively every day in our schools across Conway."
Teachers and classrooms are celebrated each Friday with a pizza party and other auxiliary staff members are recognized once a month, Bradshaw said.
"I feel as if we can never do enough to recognize the work that teachers, administrators and staff do each day to help the students of our district," she said. "Teaching is a very difficult profession, and it grows increasingly so every year. We feel strongly that any time we get a chance to recognize and reward staff for their hard work we should seize that opportunity."
Claret wrote in her nomination letter for Ms. Taylor, " It’s great teachers like Ms. Taylor who encourage, instill an excitement and desire to learn. She makes school fun, exciting and a place my son loves to be."
To nominate a teacher, administrator or staff member submit written detail of why he or she should be recognized at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)