Kathy Rusert, a science teacher at Acorn High School in the Ouachita River School District, is the 2012 Arkansas Rural Teacher of the Year. The designation is presented by the Arkansas Rural Education Association and sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
Rusert, who has taught at Acorn for 25 years, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Arkansas Tech University. She is certified to teach first through eighth grade and middle school science, social studies, English and business education. The Mena native has earned graduate hours from Henderson State University, Loyola Marymount University and Southern Arkansas University.
“My philosophy is that teachers should be equipped to challenge students of all abilities and interests,” she said. “I do this by making sure that all students apply knowledge learned in the classroom with hands-on activities to reinforce learning.”
Her favorite classroom is a 15-acre outdoor classroom that she helped Acorn obtain. The “classroom” includes trees, natural walking trails with large stones identifying the tree species, a flower garden, bird blind, tracking boxes, bird/bat houses, a pond, a creek with a natural spring and a large gazebo. The outdoor classroom is frequented by students as well as the public. According to Rusert, the area is especially popular with the area’s senior citizens who enjoy walking the trails. Adjacent to the nature area is a greenhouse, garden plot and picnic area.
“I teach students to incorporate math, literacy, science, physical education, music, art and social studies by using nature,” she said. “It is my philosophy that by learning about the natural environment, students will gain an appreciation and motivation to preserve our resources.”
As a teacher at a rural school Rusert said that she can “follow her students through other grades” and provide a family-type support system. “I have found that working in a rural school, there is much more support from administration for both teachers and students,” she said. “Smaller class sizes in rural schools help teachers with more time per student, which also gives students more opportunities to be leaders. This is where I belong.”
The Rural Teacher of the Year Award winner is selected based on the quality and depth of answers to questions in the following categories: professional biography, educational history, professional development, community involvement, teaching philosophy, education issues and the teaching profession.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas sponsor this award every year as part of its commitment to education. Winners receive recognition, a plaque and a check for $1,000. Rusert was selected by a committee of educators based on her answers to questions involving the following categories: professional biography, education, history, professional development, community involvement, philosophy of teaching, education issues and trends, and the teaching profession.
Arkansas Rural Teacher of the Year Winners:
Acorn High School
Hampton High School
Rison High School
Weiner Elementary and High School
Hector High School
William Tims Edwards II
Oden High School
Reginald (Reggie) Fryar
Van Cove High School
Valley Springs High School