The Log Cabin Democrat has followed Conway’s Randi House through nearly every step of her journey the last year as the 2018 Arkansas State Teacher of the Year.
House, a teacher from Theodore Jones Elementary in the Conway School District, has had the opportunity to travel all over the nation with the other state teachers of the year, forging bonds and memories along the way.
More recently, the Arkansas educator had the chance to fly across the country to be part of the College Football Playoff Foundation’s 2019 Extra Yard for Teachers.
“The purpose of the CFP Foundation lies in supporting early childhood through secondary education across the country,” its website reads. “The CFP Foundation’s primary platform, Extra Yard for Teachers, is dedicated to elevating the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering teachers in four focus areas: resources, recognition, recruitment and professional development.”
House posted to her personal Facebook page Jan. 4.
“The trip that makes this whole crazy year worth it for [Travis, her husband] is finally here,” she announced. “We are heading to San Jose [California] for [the] College Football Playoff game. Extra Yard for Teachers is hosting an incredible weekend for teachers.”
House went on to write that she was excited to see the other state teachers of the years, even though it was their last “hurrah.”
“This is the last experience we [went] to as a cohort, which was bittersweet considering we have traveled together for the past year,” she told the Log Cabin Democrat.
House said they were all treated like VIPs during the entire trip.
“We were honestly treated like professional athletes,” she said. “We were given branded clothing, monogrammed footballs, our own trading cards and lots of awesome swag.”
House said the one guest each teacher was allowed to bring with them also got the same treatment.
As far as activities go, the Arkansas representative told the LCD that the group attended many including a concert with access to the VIP tent, a 5k the group ran together, a “swanky” Taste of the Championship event — they ate appetizers prepared by celebrity chefs — hosted by Eckrich meats at the technology and also had the chance to throw a football through in the Eckrich toss where $1,000 was donated to the Extra Yard for Teachers foundation with every football that went through the hoop.
“Only [three] of our 55 tosses made it but then Kirk Herbstreit [American analyst for ESPN's College GameDay] made his toss for $500,000,” House said. “Much of that will go to support the teachers of Butte County who were affected by the California wildfires recently.”
All of this led up to the 2019 College Football Championship between Alabama and Clemson on Jan. 7.
“Prior to the game we were invited to attend the VIP Tailgate where there was incredible food, music and games,” House said. “We got to meet several football legends and my favorite was meeting Ken Hatfield, legendary coach and player for the Arkansas Razorbacks.”
She said before the starting of the National Anthem began, all of the state teachers were ushered onto the field to be honored in front of everyone.
“That moment where we were standing on the field was my favorite of the entire trip,” House said.
Over the past year, she said, the state teachers have “grown exceptionally close” and that moment was a bittersweet one, all knowing that it was their last moment together as a group.
“Overall, the trip was incredible in that as teachers, we were treated with such high respect and value,” House said. “Everywhere we went we were thanked and congratulated and applauded for our life's work and that was pretty incredible.”
Created in 2013, the CFP Foundation is a nonprofit organization that serves as the philanthropic arm of the College Football Playoff, the website states.
Through its Extra Yard for Teachers platform, 150,000 teachers have been supported, 4,600,000 students have been reached and 20,500 schools have benefited.
“Teachers face multiple challenges in the profession today,” the website reads. “The CFP Foundation hopes to address and make a difference in each of these areas over the next ten years.”
The CFP website made note of several of these challenges teachers face and how the foundation wants to help aid in the cause using the “the high profile of college football” through four pillars, resources, recognition, recruitment and professional development:Most teachers provide $500 out-of-pocket annually for their classrooms in school supplies. The foundation wants to put dollars directly into the classrooms. The U.S. ranks ninth — 20 were surveyed — in level of “respect for the teaching profession,” with China taking the No. 1 spot. The foundation wants to rally college football to recognize teachers nationally. By 2025, if “current trends continue,” there will be a gap of more than 200,000 teachers each year. The foundation wants to elevate the teaching profession to inspire and attract quality educators in the future. $18 billion is spent on professional developed annually but only 29 percent of teachers are “satisfied” with their current offerings. The foundation partners with organizations that have strong track records in classroom preparation.