Kaye Clanton, 65, has piqued an interest in astronomy in countless students in the community for a number of years.
She has taken them to stargazing parties at Wooly Hollow State Park and Toad Suck Park. She has taken them for one-day trips to the St. Louis Science Center. She has watched fearlessly as they conducted science experiments in her classroom.
Proud of being a tree-hugger, Clanton has enlisted the help of her students in planting trees around Conway Junior High School and at the Faulkner County Library. She has also given trees to several people over the yeas.
After 31 years of service, she is retiring this year from the Conway School District. She has taught for a total of 39 years, in both Faulkner and Conway counties.
Born in El Dorado, Clanton grew up in Hampton in Calhoun County, the daughter of the late Julian Thomas Reames and Lucille Greene Reames.
“I would tell my students, ‘I’m from LA,’” Clanton said with a straight face.
“‘That’s Lower Arkansas,’ I would tell them,” she said, this time with a smile.
She grew up with two brothers. Her older brother, Tom Reames, lives in Elkins and works part time for the University of Arkansas. Her younger brother, Terry Reames, lives in El Dorado and inherited their dad’s businesses — Concrete Service Inc. in El Dorado and Ouachita Aggregate Co. in Calhoun County.
“My father was a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in agricultural and electrical engineering. My mother was a stay-at-home mom,” Clanton said. “Education was very important in my family.
“I was my dad’s only little girl. He taught me to change a tire, to put oil in the car and how to wire new houses. He taught me girls could become anything they wanted to be.”
When she was 14, Clanton started dating her future husband, Dan, who was 16 and also a student at Hampton High School.
She graduated from Hampton High School as valedictorian in 1966 and followed Dan to Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway, now the University of Central Arkansas.
Kaye and Dan married in 1968 when she had just turned 20 and he was not quite 22.
In 1970, Kaye Clanton graduated from State College of Arkansas (which would become UCA in 1975). She received a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in math and a double minor in English and general science.
“I thought it was more prestigious to have a B.S. degree than a B.S.E. (Bachelor of Science in Education) degree,” she said. “Little beknownst to me, that would be what I would come to love — teaching.
“I wanted to work with statistics, and that was before computers. As fate would have it, I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a teacher.”
Clanton would go on to earn a Master of Science in Education degree in health and education at UCA in 1976. She also has completed postgraduate hours in physics, astronomy and other areas of science.
Her first teaching job was at Morrilton Junior High School in Conway County, where she taught math and science in 1970-71.
From 1972 to 1977, Clanton worked at UCA with various federal and state curriculum projects.
“I got some great experience there on writing grants and doing administrative things and research for curriculums,” she said.
She then stayed at home with her children for a while and was a substitute teacher in the Conway School District.
“Then Woody Cummins, who was principal at Conway Junior High, called me and said he needed a substitute teacher in physical science,” Clanton said. “He asked me if I would be willing to substitute for a while, but he couldn’t tell me for how long.
“That was in 1983, and I’ve been there ever since.”
During her time with the Conway School District, she has taught physical science and astronomy.
Clanton was an adjunct faculty member at UCA for 15 of those 31 years, teaching nights and in the summers in the department of physics and astronomy. She taught descriptive astronomy.
In the 1980s, she was instrumental in establishing an astronomy course at Conway High School.
“I wrote all of the supportive documentation we needed to submit to the state (Education) Department to get a course added for high school astronomy,” she said.
“The class was approved, and I taught it for 25 years at the Conway High School West Campus.
During that time, Clanton also established the Conway High School Astronomy Club and sponsored it for about 25 years.
Not one to sit still for any length of time, Clanton has already found an opportunity in which she can continue to keep her mind active and be creative.
“I will be collaborating with the UCA STEM Institute with several projects in the near future,” she said. “I am the kind of person who will continue to be involved with the education of students and teachers.”
Clanton said one thing on her bucket list is to see the aurora borealis. She has other dreams as well.
“I want to travel around the U.S. and see some of the old and new large observatories,” she said. “I want to visit some of the ancient ruins of the Maya and the Native Americans. I want to buy some land and plant a forest of dogwood trees. I want to live for several months in a cave and also in a treehouse.
“And when I am very, very old, I want to live on a hill with no light pollution so I can spend my nights looking at the heavens with my best friend, Dan.”
Clanton said she is looking forward to spending more time with her family. She and Dan have four children.
Son Daniel W. “Dan” Clanton Jr., 42, teaches religion and is head of the department of religion and philosophy at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. He and his wife, Melissa, have a son, Daniel W. “Danny” Clanton III, 15, and a daughter, Hannah, 10.
Daughter Kristin Ferryman, 38, is an Advanced Placement Spanish teacher at Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee. She and her husband, Charles, have two children: Alex, 10, and Kate, 5.
Son Jeff Clanton, 36, is a musician in Conway. He teaches guitar and mandolin and is a certified luthier.
Daughter Kara Evans, 29, has taught at Julia Lee Moore Elementary School and is now the health care service coordinator for Arkansas with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She and her husband, Ryan, live in Little Rock.
One of Clanton’s fondest moments of her career is that of a trip to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean Mountain in 2007. She attended a lecture by Neil DeGrass Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and host of the new TV series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
“I got to sit right in front of him,” she said. “He answered my questions, and I had my picture taken with him.”
She also asked him to sign her copy of his book The Sky Is Not the Limit. The inscription reads, “Welcome to the universe of ambition.”
Clanton attended Tyson’s lecture at UCA in February as well.