Conway educator selected state ‘Teacher of the Year’

“I love what I do. I love teaching,” she said. “Just give me anything to teach and I can figure out how to do it. And if it meshes with something I love, like reading and writing, that’s just a bonus. If I’m excited about it, my students are excited to learn it.”

The banquet was held Nov. 12. “It seems like a lifetime ago,” Powers said the following week.

Receiving the honor was a process involving several steps. First, her peers at Simon Intermediate voted her teacher of the year. A committee at the district level then selected her for the district-wide honor. Next, a regional final was held. A committee chose four teachers for observation. Representatives interviewed her, observed her class and interviewed her principal and students. She also had to create a five-minute DVD of herself speaking about what she would say if she won.

She said of her students, “I really want them to go on to college and be successful in life. I don’t just want them to make it; I want them to make it far.”
When the winner was announced, she said, “It completely blew my mind. It didn’t even register for a minute.” Powers was so impressed with the other teachers at the event that she felt she didn’t deserve to be there.

“My students get to benefit immediately because Smart Technologies is going to outfit my classroom with a Smart Board (an interactive whiteboard),” she said.
Powers discussed what her students are working on in her class.

“I think it’s very powerful when you can integrate content,” she said. This year she has been integrating social studies content with the students’ literature assignments.

This nine weeks her students are reading “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hess, a book about the Dust Bowl and The Great Depression. The book is written in free verse poetry, she said. Before the class started the book, Powers showed them slides from the 1930s and had them research three major themes from the era – The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Students learned to avoid plagiarism and to use proper research techniques. They formed groups and shared information and wrote a nonfiction report. Then they wrote four different types of poetry to practice concepts and skills they had learned in class.

“I try to make it more interesting for myself and the students so they’re more apt to learn,” Powers said.

In addition to the book students read in class, they are required to do independent reading. Powers meets individually with them regarding what they are reading, and the students keep lists on public display in the classroom so they can see what one another is reading.

Powers reads quite a bit of young adult literature in addition to the literature she reads for her own enjoyment.

“I’m constantly reading books to try to keep one step ahead of my students,” she said.

Literature teachers at Simon Intermediate have a 25 Book Club. Any student who completes 25 books in a year receives a reward – a field trip to a restaurant.

“Whatever it takes to get them to read, because they need that practice,” Powers said.


Renee Bennett, principal at Simon Intermediate, said, “We’re very excited. Kathy’s very interactive with her kids. She likes to build relationships with her students. You’ll hear her tell stories about her own experiences. She’s very animated. All her own experiences she brings into the classroom. She’s very hands-on.”

Conway Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry said, “Kathy Powers is an exceptional teacher who is so deserving of this statewide honor. She is a passionate teacher who will do whatever it takes to make sure her students learn. She will do an outstanding job of representing our state, our district, and all teachers everywhere who come to school each day to do the Lord’s work of making a difference in the lives of our students.”

In July, Powers will start a year of touring the state doing speaking engagements and professional development while representing Arkansas as Teacher of the Year.

“It’s so exciting to be able to tell about my students and what we do here at Simon and the heart our school has and Conway schools in general. It’s an excellent school system. I’m really proud to represent it.”