A good education opens the door to a bright future, and future educators in Arkansas are leading the way. By signing certificates, John Brown University students committed to entering the profession that planted the seed, bringing them to where they are today.
The signing event, hosted on the JBU campus on April 13, celebrated students’ future goals in teaching in Arkansas. Representatives from the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), the Siloam Springs School District and JBU expressed support for students and reaffirmed their partnership with each other’s organizations. Seven students, graduating in either 2021 or 2022, signed commitments, according to a JBU press release.
Other universities across the state also hosted signing events as a part of Educator Commitment Signing Week, hosted from April 12 to 16 by TEACH Arkansas, a campaign run by the ADE Division of Elementary and Secondary Education. The week celebrates future educators who “pledge to the students of Arkansas, the teaching profession, and the future of education in the state,” according to the campaign website.
The commemorative week comes as Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill on April 13 raising the state’s “median teacher salary by $2,000 over the next two years,” according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Currently, U.S. News & World Report ranks Arkansas as 41st in education.
During JBU’s signing event, Joel Lookadoo, 2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, spoke on behalf of ADE. Lookadoo shared his experiences as an Algebra I teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Springdale. “Education is an incredible profession because you know that you’re going to make an impact every single day,” Lookadoo said. “It’s not a matter of if I’m going to make an impact today —it’s a matter of how. How is that impact going to play out? And what an amazing opportunity to have that as a career.”
Both University President Chip Pollard and Ed Ericson, vice president of academic affairs, expressed gratefulness for the relationship JBU has developed with local schools. “This has been one of the great partnerships that we’ve had, and we’ve seen teachers go back and forth between the school system and JBU to help the next generation of teachers going into the school system … And you’ve seen the consequences in the growth of Siloam Springs and the quality of our school system and in the growth of Northwest Arkansas,” Ericson said.
As the dean of the College of Education and Human Services, Dick Ellis congratulated students for their commitment. Speaking to the merit of the program, Curtis Cunningham, department chair of Teacher Education, said, “… All kids in Arkansas deserve really high quality, well-prepared teachers … So, when you graduate from John Brown University with a degree in education, you are ready to step in your classroom and meet the needs of very diverse learners.”
Speaking on behalf of the Siloam Springs School District, Superintendent Jody Wiggins shared encouragement for students heading into their careers. “I can’t think of a better profession. It does not have all of the rewards monetarily as others, but the rewards come from knowing that you’ve helped students who needed help to overcome obstacles in their lives so that they can go on to doing great things,” Wiggins said.
Following the conclusion of the speakers, students signed their commitment certificates. Kaitlyn Thomas, senior elementary education major, said, “I’ve always wanted to teach the younger kids, like kindergarten … and I really liked first grade as well. I like Arkansas schools just because of the atmosphere in the actual school itself.”
Alyssa Garrison, junior elementary education major, said, “This event is so exciting because I’ve had so much time to observe in these different school districts … and I’ve gotten to see a variety of different ways that Arkansas cares for its students and the way that I can kind of fit into that puzzle piece and care for students [in] Arkansas.”