PB native among finalists for top teacher award


LITTLE ROCK — Lisa Gray, an elementary school teacher in the Fort Smith School District, was named one of four finalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year during an event at the state Capitol on Monday.

Gray, who has been teaching for 32 years, is a literacy interventionist who teaches kindergarten through sixth grade, but mostly first and second.

Gray is a graduate of Pine Bluff High School. Her parents still live in Pine Bluff.

“It’s an honor,” Gray said later, praising all the teachers honored at the event.

Gray thanked the Fort Smith school district for providing her the opportunity of “great professional development so that I am aware of what to do within the classroom to help my students.”

She also praised Sunnymede Elementary Principal Krystle Smith “who helps develop a professional learning community so that we develop as a team and we’re all working for each student.”

The other three finalists named were:

• Jonathan Crossley, an 11th- and 12-grade English teacher at Palestine-Wheatley High School.

• Sue Johnston, a first-grade teacher at Eagle Mountain Magnet School in the Batesville School District.

• Debra Lamb, a 10th through 12-grade environmental and spatial technology teacher at Har-Ber High School in the Springdale School District.

The four were among 16 regional finalists recognized during the event, attended by Gov. Mike Beebe and state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell.

Each of the 16 regional finalists received a $1,000 check from the Walton Foundation. The four finalists also received an Arkansas Teacher of the Year medallion.

The Arkansas Teacher of the Year selection review committee will conduct site visits and interviews with the four finalists over the next two weeks. The 2014 Arkansas Teacher of the Year will be notified during a surprise event, the state Department of Education said.