No. 571



The American poet, Robert Frost, once said that there are two kinds of teachers: "The kind that will fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just give you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies." I'm proud to say that here in our community we have an abundance of teachers who prod students to jump to the skies! It has long been my contention that we should reward good teachers for their work, not only monetarily, but also with well-deserved recognition.
For the past 21 years, the Conway Noon Lions Club has honored the best teachers in our community with a "Golden Apple Award" and has had them as our guest to tell them how much we appreciate the good work they are doing. The recipients are selected each year from each of the 14 campuses, by their peers from the Conway School District; St. Joseph High School, Elementary and Primary schools; and Conway Christian High School, Junior High, Elementary and Primary Schools. A plaque with the name of the "winner" hangs in each school and a framed certificate is awarded to each individual.
This much-anticipated annual event is a great time in the life of our club and we all look forward to it each April, prior to the end of the school year. From the very beginning, this special day has always been coordinated by Lion Ritchie Howell, but this past year he was out of the country, and Lion Dr. Deborah Walz stepped in, and we did not miss a beat. One of the things I personally look forward to is when our three top administrators Ñ James Simmons, superintendent of the Conway School District; Susie Freyaldenhoven, principal of St. Joseph Schools; and Gloria Gwatney, administrator of Conway Christian Schools Ñ introduce the winners.
This past year it made me proud to sit there and listen to each teacher's philosophy of education and what was important to them. In short, the focus was on academics. While athletics and other school activities are important, academics more than anything else will sustain students over the coming years and enable them to succeed in whatever they choose to do. If some civic club or other organization in your community is not making the effort to honor your teachers each year, you are missing a real opportunity. When you think about our nation and our future, it is really in the hands of our teachers.
For about 20 years of my life I worked with our nation's schools as a businessman consultant, primarily here in Arkansas where I live. One of the things I observed was the vast disparity in the quality of education from one community to the next. From my perspective, if you want to improve your community, your economy, your public safety and your quality of life, improve your schools. When a major employer looks at a community as a prospect to build or relocate, the first thing they look at is the quality of education.
This is why college towns have the advantage when it comes to quality of life issues. If you live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, New York or any of the other 20 states where this column runs, please consider this Ñ the fastest growing area of our state is Northwest Arkansas. Is it more than coincidental that Bentonville, Rogers, Fayetteville and Springdale are all within 20 miles of the University of Arkansas? This did not happen overnight, but over several decades, and that's the point. Can you see this in your own state and where you live?
The "Golden Apple Awards" our Lions Club gives each year are special, because they are presented to special people: our teachers. If what I have shared today has done nothing more than to remind all of us that teachers are very important people, it will be time well spent. We should support our teachers, help them and let them know we appreciate the commitment they have made to our children.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")