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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Focus on Educators: Waldron’s Le Anne Atchley

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By Dr. Curtis Varnell

“I am loved.  I am important.  I can learn anything.”  The teachers voice echoed down the hallway of Waldron elementary.  The teacher paused at the end of each sentence as the entire class responded back in enthusiastic unison to each statement.  Mrs. Atchley’s class were ready to learn!  She starts each period by affirming to the students that they are in a place where they are loved, appreciated, and focused on learning.  We have exceptional teachers in our region and I was visiting one of the best.  

Mrs. Le Anne Atchley teaches STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) to every student, k-4 at Waldron Elementary.  Every student in the school rotate through her classroom weekly and are introduced to hands-on, activity based education where the focus is on the student developing and improving skills across the curriculum.  

Mrs. A as she is known to her students, grew up assisting her family in raising cattle and poultry.  As her kids grew up, she took a job in a local bank and then transitioned into obtaining her bachelor of science degree at ATU.  She began her teaching career at Booneville and, in 2008, returned to her home school at Waldron.  She taught various grades in the regular classroom but her classes were never the norm.  With her enthusiastic and interesting approach to teaching, she brings out the best in her students.  Realizing her special qualities, she was chosen to begin the STEAM program for the school and, according to her administrators, she was even better than advertised.  She quickly began writing and obtaining grants from every available source, some that no-one else in the region had even heard of.  Dole, Harps, Farm Bureau, ARVEST, and General Motors assisted Waldron in developing one of the best equipped STEAM classrooms in the state. Making complex learning age appropriate is a real skill and Mrs. A has a knack for it. Her students can be observed coding robots, developing new designs for ships, airplanes, and rockets, operating drones, and wiring electrical circuits.

This past year, she obtained funding to construct a school garden and students are busy preparing the ground, germinating starter plants, and getting ready for spring.  

Today, we are doing skittles science.  Students excited voices echo across the room as they number and graph the flavors found in each bag.  Laughter fills the classroom as blindfolded students hold their nose and try to guess the flavor of candy just by taste (skittles relies of smell and color to determine taste).  This is the way a classroom should be.  Students are engaged, they are excited about learning, and they are learning to work together to solve problems.  

Exceptional teachers make a difference in the life of students.  Teacher knowledge is important, loving and truly caring for a student is even more important, best of all is the teacher like Mrs. A that demonstrates both.  

Each month, we will focus on outstanding area educators.  Don’t forget to thank that “special” teacher in your life. 

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Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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