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Award draws praise for Searcy teacher

By Jeanni Brosius

This article was originally published October 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. Updated October 10, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.

cheryl-simmons-helps-jordyn-hardy-draw-a-frog-during-art-class-at-westside-elementary-school-in-searcy-simmons-teaches-kindergarten-through-fourth-grade-art-and-is-the-searcy-school-district-teacher-of-the-year

Cheryl Simmons helps Jordyn Hardy draw a frog during art class at Westside Elementary School in Searcy. Simmons teaches kindergarten through fourth-grade art and is the Searcy School District Teacher of the Year.

— One of the things Cheryl Simmons enjoys about teaching art to children is that they are free with their creativity.

Simmons, who teaches kindergarten through fourth-grade art at Westside Elementary School in Searcy, recently received the 2012-2013 Searcy Public Schools Teacher of the Year Award. She has been a teacher in the district for 21 years.

Simmons said she enjoys teaching the younger students.

“They’re just so excited, and I don’t feel that with the older ones,” Simmons said about teaching younger students. “They’re more free and creative. They’re open and ready to be creative.”

Simmons said her grandfather was an artist, and her mother and sister were teachers. So she decided she wanted to combine the two and teach art.

Although she set out to become an art teacher, there weren’t any positions for art teachers open when she graduated from Harding University in 1990.

“There just weren’t any art-teaching jobs available then,” she said. “They just made art mandatory about six years ago.”

After teaching first grade for three years and third grade for nine years, an art-teaching position came available.

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is watching the students grow and change, she said.

“When they come to me, they’re barely 5 years old, and they don’t want to leave their moms,” she said. “They leave here leaders. You see how much they’ve grown.”

Although there are certain challenges to being a teacher, Simmons said, as an art teacher, she doesn’t have to deal with as many of those challenges.

“There are a lot of high expectations of teachers and what they are required to do,” she said. “I don’t have that burden as much. I don’t have to worry about passing or failing [students]; there are no grades. It’s just fun, and [the kids are] free to be creative.”

Simmons said she is honored to have been chosen Teacher of the Year, which was voted on by other teachers in the Searcy Public School District. The award is through the Arkansas Department of Education.

“We have so many awesome teachers here,” Simmons said. “I feel honored, of course, but I also feel a little embarrassed, too, because there are so many great teachers.”

“Cheryl Simmons is a well-deserving recipient of the Searcy Public Schools Teacher of the Year Award,” said Betsy Bailey, Teacher of the Year coordinator for the Searcy Public Schools. “Her love for her students and the education profession are clearly evident on a daily basis. She teaches students to develop a love for art, and she makes learning fun. Mrs. Simmons is an outstanding representative for the Searcy School District in the state Teacher of the Year contest, and we congratulate her on her recent achievement.”

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

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