Melissa Spence, a first-grade teacher at Theodore Jones Elementary School, was selected to represent the Conway School District as a regional finalist for 2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Spence was one among 15 other educators from across the state named during an announcement by the Arkansas Department of Education on Thursday.

She said she received email notification that she had made it to regionals on July 12 while at home.

“I knew it was going to be coming that day, so, I was looking for the email, excited to see whether I was or wasn’t," the first-grade teacher told the Log Cabin Democrat on Thursday.

When Spence received the alert from ADE, she said she started screaming.

"I believe I even started jumping up and down," she said, laughing. "It's such a big deal, it's mind-blowing at the same time. It was a great, great, great feeling."

Spence said she's excited, honored, grateful and proud, all rolled into one.

"To have my name among 15 educators in our whole state is such a big honor," the regional finalist proclaimed. "I'm just so grateful for every opportunity I've had from Conway School District and Theodore Jones in my four years. I'm just truly honored. That's the best description."

Her husband, Jeff, was home with Spence when she found out. She said he's been incredibly supportive since she was announced as teacher of the year in April.

"He takes joy in my joy," she said. "He's very excited for me as well, just really proud."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson ad ADE Commissioner Johnny Key will recognize the group and name the four state semi-finalists on Aug. 1 at the governor's mansion. One of the four will then be selected for the 2020 state role this fall, then apply for the national position.

Spence said she's excited for that event, eager to meet the other 14 regional finalists.

"I'm so looking forward to that," she said.

Each of the 15 will receive a $1,000 award through the Walton Family Foundation, a supporter of the program, which is part of National Teacher of the Year, recognizing teachers for their teaching and leadership skills.

“I am extremely proud of each of these regional finalists,” Commissioner Johnny Key said in an ADE news release. “From their tireless dedication to the teaching profession to their commitment to ensuring their students graduate prepared for college, career, and community engagement, these 15 educators are among the best of the best. With their hard work and dedication, we will achieve our vision of leading the nation in student-focused education.”