Alma Teacher of the Year

Alma Teacher of the Year

CAMPUS:  Alma Primary School

NAME:  Marla Sutton







TEACHING HISTORY:  31 Years in the Alma School District


PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS:  Art Education Association, Elementary Art Liaison, Arkansas Leadership Academy Team Leader, Gifted and Talented Association


AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS:  Arkansas Elementary Art Teacher of the Year, Milken Award Recipient


EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES:  Developmental Stages of Art and how it relates to Reading and Writing


PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING:  I believe every child comes into this life full of wonder, curiosity, excitement and laughter. As a teacher it is my job to tap into that and expand upon it. To create an atmosphere where students are talking, discussing, honoring others opinions, creating hypothesis, and conclusions. An atmosphere where it's "ok" to have the wrong answer, to mess up, make a mistake, make a mess, then to back up and start again. I want the learning in my classroom to be like a road map where I give my students the destination but there are many paths to reach that destination. I also believe that it in fact does take a village. So collaboration among teachers is vital and that as a group we can bring about change. My goal for my classroom is to create an environment that students and teachers can't wait to walk into, to be like "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" where teaching comes to life! Because of this, my classroom walls are painted with a jungle theme and various jungle animals. I actually spent a summer painting murals throughout our building. I also have real animals in my classroom. I have talking parrots, saltwater fish, freshwater fish, worms, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, a hedgehog, turtles, an African frog and last but not least a Hermit crab and they learn about each and every one of them.


I love it when a student sees me outside of school and wants to introduce their parents to me or when a parent stops me and says they had me in school and are so happy that their child now has me. This tells me that I had a positive impact on that person and that is such a good feeling for a teacher. I would like to believe that in a small way I made a positive difference in a child's life. Teaching isn't a job or something I do because I can't do anything else. Because there were many things I could have chosen to do. For me, teaching is a privilege. I have been entrusted with someone's child and it is an honor to give them my very best.


COMMENTS BY THE NOMINATOR(S):  I am nominating Ms. Marla Sutton for Teacher of the Year because of her outstanding work ethic and dedication to students. Working with her for the last several years, I have seen her take on countless extra duties and responsibilities that don't fall anywhere under the umbrella of the art class that she is assigned to teach. The most recent of these endeavors is our school Science Lab. She takes on each task with a smile and positive attitude. She is a true advocate for students and teachers alike. For her the bottom line is always, "what's best for kids," which is easy to say, but far more difficult to put into practice. She does every single day! Our school and our community are fortunate to be able to call her our own!


Marla Sutton is a wonderful teacher for our students. She goes the extra mile to make her Art class fun and engaging every week. She not only teaches an Art concept each week, but she helps to celebrate the STAR students from each class and she participates in our themed celebrations at school. Marla also plans, supplies, and teaches the Science Lab at our school. She has numerous pets there, from fish, to a hedgehog, and exotic birds. She provides the students with a hands-on experience and they are thrilled to go with her any time.
For more than 30 years, Marla was the face and the organizer of the APS parent pick up line. She knew students by name and she was out there in rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine. She kept our students safe, our parents happy, and the highway 64 traffic flowing.
Marla is also our "Stand in Nurse" at APS! If Nurse Parker is not available, Marla is there to hand out band-aids and ice packs. She has also been very helpful in several incidents of broken arms and seizures. Marla has a sweet kind voice that can calm an injured child and a worried mother.
For 30 plus years she did breakfast duty every morning. She watched over the students in the cafeteria and helped clean up after the bell rang. She is still helping with breakfast by stuffing food bags and handing them out to students.
Ms. Sutton has worn many hats at the Alma Primary School. She is our resident animal expert. She has caught and released numerous snakes and opossums from our playground. She has rescued birds, lizards, and bugs. She has even adopted cats that made their way to school and needed a home.
Ms. Sutton was in a car accident on her way to school in January of 2016. She pushed herself to recover as quickly as possible so that she would be back in time to say good-bye to the second grade students before they moved on to the Intermediate School.
Marla Sutton is a very caring and considerate person. She is never too busy to stop and help anyone with anything. We will really have no idea exactly what all Marla does and takes care of here at school until she retires and is not here each day. Marla will be retiring in May and we all wish her the very best. I believe she would be the most excellent choice for Teacher of the Year. She is the perfect example of a caring and hard-working teacher that we should all strive to be!!



CAMPUS:  Alma Intermediate School

NAME:  Jo Ann Jordan



EDUCATION:  Bachelor's Degree - Elementary Education with Middle School Endorsements - English and Social Studies


TEACHING CREDENTIALS:  National Board Certification (Literacy: Reading - Language Arts) 2009; Arkansas Leadership Academy - Teacher Institute


TEACHING HISTORY:  Alma Intermediate School 1999 - present






EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES:  Novice Teacher Mentor Program - Mentor 1st year teachers
PLC - 3rd Grade Literacy Curriculum Development and Planning


PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING:  There is so much truth to the saying, “They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” I believe an effective teacher is someone who realizes that building a relationship with their students is as important as the content they teach. It would be great if all students came to us from good, loving homes with kind, caring parents, but we know that they don’t. Since they come with different backgrounds, different abilities, and different needs, I believe it is my responsibility to meet them where they are, and do everything in my power to help them learn by giving them opportunities to stretch, grow, and reach their full potential. I strive to do this by providing a safe, caring environment, a place where students feel valued for the person they are. I am committed to making it a place where they are comfortable to ask questions, discuss ideas, and make mistakes. It is my goal to instill in them that with hard work and never giving up, anything is possible.

I believe teaching is a calling. I am so blessed to enter a classroom each day where I can help mold and shape young minds. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than when I see the eyes of a student light up when they suddenly “get it”. I realize teaching isn’t for everyone. I personally can’t imagine doing anything else. It is a privilege and responsibility I take very seriously.


COMMENTS BY THE NOMINATOR(S):  Mrs. Jordan is my daughter's third grade teacher this year. My child has been struggling with reading since kindergarten, with no have a desire to read because it was too difficult for her and it became embarrassing and frustrating. We did all we could at home but she only seemed to become more upset. I knew third grade was going to be a big year academically and was worried that she would fall behind even more. We asked around to other parents and teachers, who they suggested as a strong reading teacher. Everyone immediately said, "Mrs. Jordan". So we requested Mrs. Jordan and we were lucky to be placed in her class! I let Mrs. Jordan know, up front, of her previous struggles and my concerns for her future in school. Mrs. Jordan was so understanding and optimistic. She told me not to worry, that she would do wonderful and would have a successful year. Mrs. Jordan never once made my child feel like she wasn't good enough at what she was trying to do. She always told her, "that's so good" or "that's a really good try, I'm impressed". My child's first lexile report came home and it was as we expected, well below normal reading level. But a few weeks later we got an updated one and we were BLOWN AWAY! She had had brought her lexile scores up dramatically and more than doubled her WPM in just a few weeks, she was reading books close to her projected reading level and she was ENJOYING IT! Now she can't wait to come home and read her library books to her little sister and loves trying to teach her how to read. My child has this new love for reading and it is something that we could not have done without Mrs. Jordan. Anytime my child struggles in any area Mrs. Jordan is always so positive and uplifting. We have went from all B's and C's, to ALL A's this year. My child looks forward to school and learning, she can't even pick a favorite subject because she is enjoying them all. THANK YOU MRS. JORDAN FOR INVESTING SO MUCH TIME AND LOVE INTO MY CHILD'S EDUCATION!


CAMPUS:  Alma Middle School

 NAME:  Paul Wahman


EDUCATION:  B.S. in Business Administration from University of Arkansas


TEACHING CREDENTIALS:  Middle Content Level Certified grades 4-8; Acellus Trained and Certified; AP Certified; Pathwise Certification


TEACHING HISTORY:  With Alma Middle School since 2001, having taught grades 6, 7, and 8 as classroom math teacher and served 2 years prior as SDC teacher. 6th grade quiz bowl coach for 4 years and 7th grade head coach and 8-9th grade basketball assistant coach for 6 years for the Airedales. Taught summer school 2 years and have been involved in after school homework help over several years. Also serve as co-leader for kids participating in STEM competitions.




AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS:  Have coached and won 6th grade regional quiz bowl tournament the last 2 years. No national or state awards, and sounds a little silly to say, but was chosen as AMS teacher of the month 4 or 5 times over a few years period that was nominated and voted on by students and I was proud and it meant a lot to have received that recognition. My main reward and recognition that means the most to me is all the letters, pictures, cards, hugs, high fives, handshakes, etc. that students give me each day throughout the year.


EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES:  Been on and served on many committees throughout the years from ACSIP to providing a few PD sessions for back to school faculty meetings. Have been on Personnel Policy committee to represent and serve as liaison of AMS staff that met with our School Districts Administration. Recently was elected to serve on first Leadership Committee at AMS.


PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING:  My main focus as a teacher is to let all kids know that I care for them and I am here to help them in any way. I try very hard to make a connection with all students’ not just ones I have in class. I think it's very important to find out what's going on in their lives during and outside of school. This might mean going to watch them at little league games, going to choir/band concerts, or simply making time to listen to all the things they want to share. I feel like making this connection and establishing a relationship makes students want to be in your classroom. That makes the difficult parts of teaching easier because they are excited about what may being going on in the class and want to come see and share time with you. I feel uncomfortable calling myself an outstanding teacher, and I know many teachers experience the same things I do, but having former students each year drop in and see me and talk about all the great memories they had in my class and having younger kids that aren't even at AMS yet say they hope they get to be in my class, makes me feel like I'm doing some things right. I try very hard and put a lot of time and energy into making my classroom fun and engaging. If you can get students engaged each day, which all teachers know is extremely hard to do, then you have won half the battle. Of course I want them to master all content of the math but in these formative years kids can learn so much more. I want them to be respectful of others, learn that it is okay to fail or make mistakes but don't give up, go for whatever dreams or goals they set, and most of all don't be afraid to be themselves. I want all kids to know that they matter and try to help the shy ones break out of their shell and maybe help some go slightly back in their shell, helping them understand you don't have to be loud and draw attention to yourself. Just be yourself and good things will happen. So I guess I would just end by saying what makes me feel like an outstanding teacher, deserved or not, is when the students say things like they wished they could be in my class all day, or could I please move up to 7th grade and be their teacher next year, or they never liked math before but do now, or simply confide in me about their high or low moments in their lives. That makes me feel like helping kids is my calling in life. To me, finding that is what is truly outstanding.


COMMENTS BY THE NOMINATOR(S):  Mr. Wahman is deserving of this reward for a number of reasons. His teaching methods are fun and engaging so that there is never a dull moment in his class. Students in his class want to learn and want to do well because of the environment he creates. He develops positive relationships with the majority of his students, and many students find they can trust him. Mr. Wahman would be an excellent representative as the middle school teacher of the year.


CAMPUS:  Alma High School

 NAME:  Terry McGonigle


EDUCATION:  Master of Arts - Theatre (Emphasis in Technical Theatre Design)
Bachelor of Arts - Speech / Communication Arts (Emphasis in Theatre)


TEACHING CREDENTIALS:  Theatre Arts; Oral Communication / Speech; Debate / Forensics; Journalism


TEACHING HISTORY:  Alma Schools - 2010 to Present
Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts - 2007 thru 2010
Gwinnett / Forsyth County Schools (Georgia) - 1995 thru 2007
Gordon College (Georgia) - 1989 thru 1995
Wichita Public Schools (Kansas) - 1982 thru 1989
Maize Schools (Kansas) - 1981 thru 1982
Belleville Public Schools (Kansas) - 1974 - 1980


PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS:  International Thespian Society - Arkansas Board of Directors (7 Years)
International Thespian Society - Nevada Board of Directors (3 Years)
International Thespian Society - International Student Officer Adult Liaison (10 Years)
International Thespian Society - Georgia Board of Directors (11 Years)
Georgia Association of Theatre - College Division Chair (2 Years)
International Thespian Society - Kansas State Director (5 Years)
Kansas Scholastic Press Association
Kansas Association of Speech Teachers


AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS:  Arkansas Thespians' Teacher Hall of Fame - 2016
Southwestern College Fine Arts Hall of Fame - 2015
Educational Theatre Association National Teacher's Hall of Fame - 2008
Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame - 2006
Kansas Theatre Teacher's Hall of Fame - 2004
Georgia Teachers as Leaders Award - 2001
Georgia Youth Arts Educator of the Year - 1999
Who's Who Among America's Teachers - 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2004, 2005, 2006


EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES:  *Taught professional development workshops and classes on various aspects of theatre and development of student leadership in 19 states across the country.
*Wrote and narrated an instructional video to help teachers develop coursework on beginning costume techniques for high school students that is currently being used in over 2,000 high schools nationwide.
*Served as the lead teacher in theatre arts for Gwinnett County Schools (a system of more than 187,000 students) where I instituted a mentoring program to support beginning teachers as they entered classroom teaching.


PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING:  My teaching philosophy is fairly simple... I believe every student has value. I believe every student has a need to feel valued. I believe every student has potential. And, I believe it is my job, my honor and my privilege to help every student find his/her self-worth, to feel "necessary" and tap into their potential.

As lofty as that sounds, it comes from my heart. I was a good student who loved school. But, because of circumstances at home, I never believed I had worth and I struggled personally and emotionally because of that. When I was in high school, I had two teachers who helped me find my value by pushing me every day to be better than the day before. They refused to give up on me, even when I became discouraged or wanted to give up on myself.

As a teacher, the most important thing I have learned is to listen to my students. My door has always been open and my phone number always available to anyone who needed to talk, blow off steam, or just sit quietly with someone who would sit quietly with them. I have received many phone calls in the middle of the night from students who needed to be rescued from a bad situation, or wanted to share some exciting news or needed to cry over a loss.

Throughout my teaching, there is a four-letter word I have never allowed in my classroom... the word is "can't". Students have never been allowed to use that word, because I believe anything is possible if you want it bad enough and are willing to work for it. It may be hard. It may seem impossible. But with the right mentor, every student can find success. I don't believe home life, finances, or ACT scores should hinder any student from achieving his/her goals or from following his/her dreams.

It has not always been easy. As a teacher I have been challenged by many students who were not motivated for one reason or another. Modeling my teaching after those two instructors I had in high school, I have worked every day to find whatever it took to reach every kid I could. As frustrated as I might have become, I never gave up on my students. Was I always totally successful? ... No. That was a lesson that was very hard for me to learn. But, there were many, many, many more success than there were failures.

I also learned the importance of laughter and not taking myself too seriously have always told my students that I am human (in spite of what they might think to the contrary) and that I have good days and bad days just like they do. I strived to show them the same patience for their bad days as I hoped they would show me. Being able to joke about my own mistakes or admit openly I was wrong, not only showed them I was accessible and approachable, it let them know it was OK to admit your mistakes and move on.

Finally, I believe good teachers, no matter what they teach, do it because they love kids. That is all that matters. Kids, who know they are loved, valued and respected for whatever it is they have to offer, will learn and will succeed. I believe and trust this ideal with all my heart as I am living proof of that philosophy.


COMMENTS BY THE NOMINATOR(S):  Terry has made an impact on so many student’s lives that otherwise may or may not have a place to shine. His students have gone on to excel in theater. He spends more hours on campus than any other teacher and he always helps out if any of us need him. Finally he not only cares about his program but makes sure his students are also doing well in their other classes. I can’t imagine we will be able to replace him with anyone near his caliber.


I think it’s a great opportunity to recognize him for the work they’ve accomplished during their tenure at ASD. He goes above and beyond in his work ethic, level of expectation and performance, and willingness to give of his time to students. I can’t think of anyone better.