Conway teacher selected a regional finalist for Arkansas Teacher of the Year 1

Kaitlyn Ryals (left) was named one of 12 finalists for the state’s Teacher of the Year competition. Courtway Middle School Principal Amy Jordan (right) said Ryals makes all of the school staff better for being teammates with her.

Conway Public Schools (CPSD) Bob and Betty Courtway Middle School teacher Kaitlyn Ryals has been named one of 12 regional finalists for the Arkansas Department of Education’s (ADE) 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, per a news release issued by ADE.

As previously reported in the Log Cabin Democrat, Ryals is a math teacher who won CPSD’s Teacher of the Year award in May. Awarded the honor by now-retired Superintendent Greg Murry and Courtway Middle School Principal Amy Jordan, Ryals said she was surprised when Murry called her name at the school assembly in May.

“I was very confused when he called my name because CPSD Teacher of the Year was something that I thought would never be possible for me,” Ryals said to CPSD spokesman Heather Kendrick. “I am a crier and it’s a good thing that [Jordan] knows that because she put tissues in my hand. I am extremely honored to be a part of this amazing school district and so very grateful for having the honor to represent all the teachers in [CPSD].”

On Thursday, ADE Secretary Johnny Key said the 12 finalists are representatives of the hard work all Arkansas teachers put in during the 2020-21 school year in which the coronavirus pandemic caused challenges at educational institutions statewide.

“The 2020-21 school year was unprecedented; however, Arkansas’ teachers rose to the occasion,” Key said. “Unlike many other states, schools in Arkansas were open throughout the entire school year. It is because of dedicated teachers, like those recognized today, that our students didn’t miss a day of learning. Congratulations to the regional finalists, and thank you for leading by example both in and out of the classroom.”

In May, Jordan said Ryals made Courtway Middle School proud.

“When [Ryals] comes to school, she loves kids unconditionally and makes all of us better for being teammates of hers,” Jordan said. “I am so proud that she is the CPSD Teacher of the Year.”

In addition to her position as a math teacher, Ryals supervised University of Central Arkansas (UCA) student interns that worked at CPSD last spring, gaining UCA’s “Mentor of the Year” award for her efforts.

Ryals will receive a certificate and $1,000 prize for being named a regional finalist. The ADE’s list will be further trimmed down to four on Aug. 5, with an overall award winner set to be announced later this fall.

Staff Writer Kolton Rutherford can be reached at krutherford@thecabin.net.

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