The Arkansas Leader

Two area finalists are competing for Teacher of Year

Saum of Stagecoach Elementary and Hum of Sylvan Hills Middle School.

 Two area teachers are among 12 finalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year and will each receive a $1,000 prize.

Both Jessica Saum, a special education teacher from Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot, and Shanon Hum, an AVID teacher at Sylvan Hills Middle School, were notified recently they had made the cut. 

The 12 regional finalists will be recognized at an Aug. 5 event at the Governor’s Mansion. During the event, the four state semi-finalists will be announced.

“After such a challenging school year, it is my honor to recognize some of the best teachers around the state,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “The 2020-2021 school year was unprecedented. However, Arkansas’ teachers rose to the occasion. Unlike many other states, schools in Arkansas were open throughout the entire school year. It is because of dedicated teachers, like those recognized today, that our students didn’t miss a day of learning. Congratulations to the regional finalists, and thank you for leading by example both in and out of the classroom.”

Saum is a native of Columbia, S.C., but calls Sherwood her home. She is in her third year as self-contained special education teacher at Cabot’s Stagecoach Elementary School teaching students in kindergarten through fourth grade. 

“We are very proud of Mrs. Saum and fortunate to have her on our team working with our special needs students.. She truly defines what it means to be an exemplary educator. Mrs. Saum is very deserving of this honor and we believe that she would make an exemplary teacher of the year for the entire state of Arkansas.” said Dr, Tony Thurman, the Cabot school superintendent. 

As a military spouse, Saum has served as Key Spouse at Little Rock Air Force Base and Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and was recently awarded the honor of the 314th Airlift Wing’s Key Spouse of the Year for 2020. 

She’s also been named Cabot School District teacher of the year.

As an Association of Ameri-can Educators and Arkansas State Teachers Association Advocacy Fellow, Saum published an opinion piece in April on how schools can support military families.

Hum is a 32-year veteran teacher at Sylvan Hills Middle School was named the PCSSD Teacher of the Year.

In nominating Hum, her principal Mike Hudgeons said, “She is just one of those people who goes over and beyond on everything and especially if it benefits our kids. To be clear, she is the gold standard for teachers in my building. She is everything a school administrator could possibly ask for in a faculty member.”

Hum, who has spent most of her career at Cato Elementary teaching second and third graders, moved to the middle school about 10 years ago to teach 6th grade math. Then a few years later she was asked to take the lead in the AVID classes for all middle school grades. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Hum described it as a class that gives students the skills to succeed in life.

“I knew I had the perfect teacher for that program, but I was reluctant to approach her (Hum) because it would cost me my strongest math teacher,” Hudgeons explained, adding, as it turned out, Hum “has been the leader in AVID that I knew she would be.”

The other 10 finalists are Vickie Lewis with Wynne School District, Amy Privett with Lawrence County School District, Kaitlyn Ryals from Conway School District, Jessica Talley from Magnolia School District, Brigette Biley-Olatunji from Texarkana School District, Angela Waters from Sheridan School District, Rozanna Brown from Fort Smith School District, Allison Dolan from Springdale School District, Amy Farmer from West Memphis School District and Jil’Lana Heard from Lake Hamilton School District.

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