Conway Public Schools has named Melissa Spence, a first grade teacher at Theodore Jones Elementary School, as its District Teacher of the Year for 2020.

Spence was attending the annual first grade end of school picnic with her students Tuesday morning when Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry, along with her Principal and other school leaders, approached the playground with balloons and cookies.

There was no stopping the tears, and hugs, as she, then her students and fellow teachers, realized what was happening.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘I cannot believe they are here,’” says Spence, “...to see the balloons and cookies, I knew it was big! When Dr. Murry said I was the Teacher of the Year for the District, I felt so incredibly excited and proud! I think I gave him about five hugs!”

After being swarmed by her students who wanted hugs and pictures, coworkers couldn’t wait to personally rejoice with Mrs. Spence. The teachers on her first grade team, the school’s Instructional Facilitators, Principal and Assistant Principal, all offered emotional congratulations, thrilled for their friend.

“Melissa’s passion for teaching is evident in her everyday life,” says Anna Schichtl, Instructional Facilitator at Theodore Jones. “To see her win this honor was one of the best experiences of my teaching career, because Melissa is a hardworking, compassionate and dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond the call of teacher duties. EVERY SINGLE DAY she walks into this building with a smile on her face and LOVES PEOPLE—little and BIG! This honors her for the amazing things she does for our students, parents, and community!”

Spence has taught first grade at Theodore Jones for the last three years. She taught third grade when first arriving at the school in 2015 and taught first grade at Mayflower Elementary for two years. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Teaching and an ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsement.

Principal Tammy Woosley says Spence is a excellent choice to represent the district.

“Melissa exemplifies our district’s core values every day,” says Woosley. “She’s a perfect example of an educator who puts others first and strives for excellence in all that she does.”

Since joining the staff at Theodore Jones Elementary, Spence has been actively involved with her school, helping coach Jones Joggers, as well as starting a Morning Walking Club for 2nd-4th grade students. Last summer she implemented a program called “Schoolin' Summer,” a skill-based outreach program for students during the month of July. Volunteer teachers traveled through neighborhoods in Theodore Jones’ school zone, giving students resources and activities to work on while at home. This Spring, she launched a project called “Sunday Snuggle Stories.” Each Sunday night students and families watch different guest readers from the school read a book to them via Facebook. This allows children to have exposure to literacy and have discussion about the book with their families at home.

“Melissa is a wonderful teacher who has a true heart for students,” says Dr. Greg Murry, Conway Superintendent of Schools, “Her creative teaching abilities make her someone that students are attracted to. We are blessed to have teachers in our district like Mrs. Spence – she’s special.”

Before being chosen at District Teacher of the Year, Spence was chosen to represent Theodore Jones Elementary School as their Teacher of the Year. She will now go on to represent Conway in the State Teacher of the Year competition this Summer.

“I am so very grateful for this honor and opportunity to represent the best district in our state,” says Spence. “I am truly blessed!”

Other Conway Schools’ Teachers of the Year are as follows:

Sallie Cone Preschool- Katherine Bruner

Ida Burns Elementary- Bonnie Mattox

Woodrow Cummins Elementary- Lance Nail

Carolyn Lewis Elementary- Carise Echols

Florence Mattison Elementary- Samantha Hambuchen

Julia Lee Moore Elementary- Morgan Roberts

Ellen Smith Elementary- Lindsay Spicer

Jim Stone Elementary- Kimberly Browning

Marguerite Vann Elementary- Michelle Young

Bob & Betty Courtway Middle School- Tracy Trumble

Ruth Doyle Middle School- Julie Haynes

Ray & Phyllis Simon Middle School- Traci Schlinker

Carl Stuart Middle School- Kathryn Bates

Conway Junior High- Lisa Worlow

Conway High School- Crystal Certain