Batesville educator named Teacher of the Year finalist

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published September 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 20, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Sue Johnston, an Eagle Mountain Magnet School Elementary School teacher in Batesville, was recently selected as one of the top four finalists for the Arkansas Teacher of the Year Award.

BATESVILLE — Sue Johnston wasn’t expecting the announcement she heard Monday, when she was named one of the top four finalists for the 2014 Arkansas Teacher of the Year award.

The award is given by the Arkansas Department of Education.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Johnston said. “It was surprising.”

Johnston is a first-grade teacher at Eagle Mountain Magnet Elementary School in Batesville.

Johnston, with 16 other regional finalists for the award, attended a ceremony Monday at the Capitol in Little Rock, where the number of finalists was narrowed to four.

At the ceremony, Johnston was presented with a $1,000 check from the Walton Family Foundation and a medallion.

“[At the ceremony], I was finding out what other people do in their classrooms,” she said.

Eagle Mountain’s principal, Pat Rutherford, said this is the first year for a teacher from her school to make it into the final four for Teacher of the Year.

“She is very deserving of this honor,” Rutherford said.

When Johnston was named one of the finalists, Rutherford said, she posted the announcement to the school’s Facebook page.

“You wouldn’t believe the comments on there,” she said.

Kind words came from people young and old about the first-grade teacher indicating why they thought she should receive the award.

“She’s just a natural teacher and shows respect to her students,” Rutherford said. “She has seamless transitions from one activity to the next.”

Johnston, who has been teaching for 22 years, has been at Eagle Mountain Magnet for 13.

“I love doing languages with the kids,” she said.

Johnston incorporates Spanish and German into daily activities with her first-graders.

“Every day is different,” she said. “You have to give your full attention to your job.”

As a teacher, Johnston said, if she has a bad day in the classroom, she has to figure out how to make it better the next day.

“You can never think, ‘I can’t do this,’” she said.

She gets to see her students grow and learn daily, and seeing them develop is Johnston’s favorite part of her job. In her 22 years of teaching, Johnston has taught in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan. She has taught grades one through four, as well as teaching English as a second language.

Rutherford said she hopes Johnston will be named the 2014 Teacher of the Year.

“She’s just the ultimate teacher,” Rutherford said. “I don’t have the words to describe why she should be Teacher of the Year.”

Each finalist will be observed and interviewed by the award’s selection committee in the next two weeks, and the official winner will be announced at a surprise notification event, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.

Johnston’s son is also a teacher and has given her some advice for the site visit she will receive as a finalist.

“He just keeps telling me, ‘Mom, just be yourself,’” she said..

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at

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