24 May Conway schools name 2021-22 district teacher of the year
Bob and Betty Courtway Middle School conducted their end-of-year awards ceremony last week. Students gathered in the gym by grade level, where teachers presented awards for each class/subject.
The 6th grade assembly included a surprise announcement and unexpected award, this one for a Courtway teacher. Superintendent Greg Murry came to announce Math Teacher Kaitlyn Ryals as Conway’s District Teacher of the Year for 2021-22.
“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,” says Ryals, who tearfully accepted Murry’s congratulations as her students and fellow teachers stood in applause. “I am a crier and it’s a good thing that (Principal) Amy Jordan knows that, because she put tissues in my hand. I am extremely honored to even be a part of this amazing school district and so very grateful for having the honor to represent all the teachers in our district.”
Ryals has been teaching 6th grade math at Courtway for the past three years. She had five years of teaching experience before coming to the Conway School District, including one year of teaching Math and Science in a remote village in Alaska. She serves as a mentor teacher for student interns and was named UCA’s “Mentor of the Semester” for the spring.
Principal Amy Jordan says the culture of Courtway is influenced tremendously by Ryals and her efforts.
“When she comes to school, she loves kids unconditionally, maintains high standards for all learners, spreads positivity like sunshine, and makes all of us better for being teammates of hers,” Jordan says. “I am so proud that she is the CPS District Teacher of the Year!”
Besides teaching Math to her 6th grade general education and inclusion students, Ryals started the “Positivity Posse” this year. The ‘posse’, which consists of Ryals, a school counselor, and two of the school’s administrators, has a goal of encouraging the teachers, staff, and students at the school, knowing things this year can be challenging. Each week, the posse plans a gift or treat for all staff. They also recognize and celebrate students’ birthdays once a month with a treat at lunch.
“We knew something positive had to take place because of the abnormality of the 2020 COVID-19 year,” Ryals said. “Some weeks we push around the positivity cart door to door delivering the goodies to each classroom and other weeks we set it up in the teachers’ lounge for grab and go. Seeing the impact this special treat has had on our staff is remarkable. The gift of giving has been ignited, and is now blazing throughout the entire school.”
The principal saw something special in Ryals from the beginning. “When we hired Kaitlyn Ryals, we knew she was special,” Jordan states. “We could sense it in her interview. She is one of those types of people I call a ‘world-changer.’ She dreams big for herself and others, and she has the innate ability to work tirelessly to make those dreams come true.”
Before being chosen as District Teacher of the Year, Ryals was selected as Courtway’s Teacher of the Year for their school. She will now go on to represent Conway in the State competition this summer, an honor she says is more meaningful than ever this year.
“The challenges we have faced this school year have been unlike any other,” Ryals maintains. “But the biggest thing that gave me comfort was knowing that every teacher in my building was there and ready to tackle that unknown right alongside me. We all have a similar heart and we were there for our students. Teachers this year may not feel as though they were able to give it their all, but finishing this year is a testament to their hard work and dedication. Teachers are needed. This year proved that to be even more true.”
Other Conway Schools’ Teachers of the Year are as follows:
Sallie Cone Preschool- Amanda Grantham
Ida Burns Elementary- Amanda Dowdy
Woodrow Cummins Elementary- Britney Graham
Theodore Jones Elementary- Nathan Howse
Carolyn Lewis Elementary- Nicole Garrett
Preston and Florence Mattison Elementary- Angela Haynes
Julia Lee Moore Elementary- Betsy Staley
Ellen Smith Elementary- Julie Turner
Jim Stone Elementary- Raven Haynes
Marguerite Vann Elementary- Lindsey Jones
Bob & Betty Courtway Middle School- Kaitlyn Ryals*
Ruth Doyle Middle School- Jennifer Seifert
Ray & Phyllis Simon Middle School- Lora Liddell
Carl Stuart Middle School- Violeta Gomez
Conway Junior High- Abbie Dolan
Conway High School- Kim Penn
*Conway Schools District Teacher of the Year