Conway’s Randi House addressed members of the Arkansas State Board of Education during her last report as state teacher of the year June 14.

House, a kindergarten teacher from Theodore Jones Elementary, was selected by her peers to represent the school in 2017; from there she was chosen as district, regional and lastly, for the state position.

“My last state board meeting was quite special for me,” she told the Log Cabin Democrat on Monday.

House said she was joined by Conway Public School superintendent Greg Murry, district communication specialist Heather Kendrick, her principal at Theodore Jones, Tammy Woosley, kindergarten coworker Nathan Howse and other friends.

“I took the opportunity at that board meeting to review what all I had accomplished during the year as well as thank the board and [the Arkansas Department of Education] for allowing me to learn alongside them and supporting me through the journey,” she said.

At the end of the report, House said board members and ADE Commissioner Johnny Key each made remarks to her, their words kind and thoughtful, ones she will never forget.

“Every teacher deserves to have a moment like that,” she said.

After a year of traveling across the U.S., representing Arkansas all over the place, House’s reign will come to an official end June 30.

“What I will miss the most about my time as ATOY will be the people,” she told the LCD. “My world has gotten so much larger throughout this journey and I have made some very special connections that I hope will continue after it ends.”

To take on the role, House had to temporarily step away from her position at Theodore Jones but this upcoming year, she returns, already having been seen alongside coworkers during this summer’s professional development.

“I am excited to be going home to my classroom and my coworkers,” she said. “I miss my students so much and I look forward to reconnecting with them.”

House said the year’s greatest impact has been finding her voice.

“When I began this journey, I was filled with doubt and quite unsure why I had been selected for the honor,” she said. “As the journey comes to a close, I feel more empowered and confident.”

Looking back at the beginning, House said she is amazed at the personal growth that has developed in her, going from an “I could never do that,” like flying and traveling alone to speaking in front of large groups, to challenging her in deep ways, proving herself wrong time after time.

House gave credit in that shift to the influence of the people she has met and from the support of my friends, family, and coworkers at home.

“I now have an incredible cohort of other state teachers of the year that I communicate with daily as well as an incredible support system at the state level,” she said. “Working alongside the people at the Arkansas Department of Education as well as serving as a non-voting member on the [Arkansas] State Board of Education has been such a powerful learning experience.”

House said she’s enjoyed the behind the scenes look she’s had toward what truly goes into the educational system.

“It’s mind-blowing to consider the sheer number of people who are working toward the same goal of providing student-focused education for every child in Arkansas,” she said.

In the past year, House has had the opportunity to travel to 26 states, participate in creating a Google Doodle, attend the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game and visit Washington D.C. twice.

“I remember the moment I caught that first glimpse of Lincoln as I climbed the steps at the memorial,” she said. “In that moment I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and awe for the opportunities the ATOY journey had brought to me. I never expected to get to see D.C. in person and standing before that grand statue I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I just stood there with tears streaming down my face.”

In her local travels, one of the most challenging aspects she witnessed was seeing the inequities students face around the state.

“I have been in the most spectacular schools and the most dilapidated schools,” House said. “I have seen students who have access to the most incredible technology and materials as well as students who have very limited access to technology.”

Seeing that all first-hand was “heartbreaking.”

“Every single student deserves to have access to the best education possible,” House said. “However, the lesson I learned from this inequity is that access to materials is not the determining factor to the level of education provided to students.

“Teacher mindset, expectations, and willingness to think outside the box is the determining factor in the type of education our students receive.”

Following in House’s footsteps in 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Stacey McAdoo from Little Rock Central High School.

“My advice to Stacey McAdoo is to just simply enjoy the incredible opportunities that will come her way throughout her journey,” House said. “Take time to foster relationships with the people you meet as those relationships will strengthen you along the journey and last long after it ends.”