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Conway announces 2021 District Teacher of the Year



CONWAY, Ark.  — Conway Public Schools has named Susan Henderson, Media Specialist at Ellen Smith Elementary School, as its District Teacher of the Year for 2021.

Superintendent Dr. 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,” said Heather Kendrick, Communication Specialist for the district, “but this year, with our schools being closed for COVID-19, we had an extra challenge.”

Challenge accepted.

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 Susan Henderson just completed her fifteenth 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 even moving to this area, Henderson says she just happened to stop by Ellen Smith to leave her resume for the Principal, where she met Mrs. 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.”

Principal Holly King, who interviewed, then hired Henderson soon after her move to Arkansas, says 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.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry says she will represent Conway well.

“Our district has a teaching staff that is dedicated to excellence in all respects,” said Murry. “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
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