Conway Public Schools has named Susan Henderson, Media Specialist at Ellen Smith Elementary School, as its District Teacher of the Year for 2021.
Superintendent Greg Murry surprised Henderson with the announcement Friday morning.
“We always like to surprise the District Teacher of the Year by having Dr. Murry show up in their classroom,” spokesman Heather Kendricksaid. “But this year, with our schools being closed for COVID-19, we had an extra challenge.”
Murry, Kendrick, Ellen Smith Principal Holly King and Assistant Principal Catricia Carter traveled to Henderson’s home for a surprise visit.
“Honestly, it took a while to figure out who I was seeing,” said Henderson, who wasn’t sure quite what to think when the superintendent came to her front door. “I could only think ‘Say good morning.’”
While Henderson just completed her 15th year in education, this was her first year in the Conway School District.
She previously worked in Oklahoma as an elementary school librarian, a 4th/5th grade classroom teacher, a reading resource teacher and a reading instructional coach.
Before moving to this area, Henderson says she just happened to stop by Ellen Smith to leave her resume for the principal, where she met King.
“As soon as I left, I called my husband and told him, ‘I want to work at this school.’ It just felt like home,” Henderson said.
Principal King, who interviewed, then hired Henderson soon after her move to Arkansas, said she has been an amazing asset to Ellen Smith.
“Susan is very innovative and creative, and she is always, always smiling,” said King. “She has made the school library such a fun and intriguing place for kids to be.”
In addition to her regular duties as the school’s media specialist, Henderson has created interactive makerspace stations throughout the library, rearranged its physical space to make it more comfortable and kid-friendly, and formed a before-school library club for the students.
Henderson will now go on to represent the district in the state teacher of the year competition. This is the first year counselors and media specialists have been eligible to compete for the title, due to a change in state law.
Murry said she will represent Conway well.
“Our district has a teaching staff that is dedicated to excellence in all respects,” Murry said. “Susan will be a great ambassador of that excellence as well as a wonderful representative of all of our teachers.”
“I know this district prides itself on excellence in education,” said Henderson, “and I’m honored to be part of an organization that truly puts students first.”
Other Conway Schools’ Teachers of the Year are as follows:
Sallie Cone Preschool - Anna Holstead
Ida Burns Elementary - Ellen Smith
Woodrow Cummins Elementary - Leah Mercer
Theodore Jones Elementary - Andrea Fournier
Carolyn Lewis Elementary - Leah Kotch
Florence Mattison Elementary - Brandon Sorrells
Julia Lee Moore Elementary - Danielle Creswell
Ellen Smith Elementary - Susan Henderson
Jim Stone Elementary - Laurel Breashears
Marguerite Vann Elementary - Bart Dooley
Bob & Betty Courtway Middle School - Beth Lasley
Ruth Doyle Middle School - Erika Easley
Ray & Phyllis Simon Middle School - Ginger Campbell
Carl Stuart Middle School - Crystal Rehm
Conway Junior High - Tyler Hanson
Conway High School - Melissa Smith