I Want To Be A… Teacher

By Arkansas Next on Friday, October 21, 2022

Jacob Slaton
Grant Harbison is director of bands at Jonesboro Public Schools.

Hometown: Jonesboro

My training: Bachelor's degree in music education at Arkansas State University and a master's of music at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas

My job: Director of bands at Jonesboro Public School

As a student, Grant only ever wanted to play the trumpet and was often quoted as saying he would never teach music. By the end of graduate school, he realized he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone in a practice room. Determined to share his passion for music and give back to the community, he took a job as the band director in Jonesboro. He has since gone on to have made such an impact in the classroom that he recently won the distinguished Milken Educator Award.

For Grant, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is teaching in his hometown. He enjoys building meaningful relationships with his students. “We truly become a band family,” Grant said. “In addition to that, I get to make music with these extraordinary students every single day.”

Since band is an optional class, students have the potential to drop the course if they don’t find it rewarding or meaningful. Grant’s mission is to create a climate in which students can thrive (and don't want to drop the class!), and more importantly, build a culture where they feel included. 

“The most important thing I want students to [learn] from my program is the feeling of having belonged to a group where they can be their true selves,” Grant said. “I want to provide students the space and the freedom to be unique. Without being able to let go of ourselves and concentrate on the task at hand, greatness or self-actualization will never be accessible.”

Why YOU should become a teacher, too!

The next generation of Arkansans are waiting for you to impact their lives in the best way. 

► 3,000 - The number of students that ONE TEACHER impacts over the course of their career. 

► 98% of people say a good teacher can change the course of a student’s life. 

► 54% of people say a teacher has helped them during a difficult time.

► 75% of people say teachers are role models. 

► 87% of people wish they'd told their favorite teachers how much they appreciated them. 

Sources: Pew, ING Foundation Survey, National Center for Education Statistics

Teacher Pay: Median Wages in Arkansas

  • Elementary school teachers: $48,090
  • Middle school teachers: $48,450
  • Secondary school teachers: $48,650
  • Special education teachers (elementary): $48,160
  • Special education teachers (secondary): $48,350
  • Career/technical education teachers (secondary): $59,270
  • Education administrators (K-12): $77,680

Source: careeronestop.org 

Top 3 Schools for Future Teachers

  1. University of Arkansas
  2. Arkansas State University 
  3. Arkansas Tech University

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Meet the Teacher: Jesse Buchanan

Hometown: Greenbrier

My training: Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with teaching licensure from Harding University

My job: High school math teacher at Fayetteville Public Schools

Did you always want to be a teacher?

“I actually always grew up telling myself that I should never be a teacher because both of my parents were. As I got older though, I understood…that the amount of hard work they put in really was worth it…they were able to create change in the lives of their students, and that’s what I’m hoping I can do as well.”

Why is teaching right for you?

“As I learned more about myself, I realized that my greatest passion was community building. That passion, and the skills required to fulfill it, are things my parents passed on to me…so teaching was the natural choice.”

What’s one thing you want your students to remember about your classroom?

“I want them to remember each other. Honestly, my main goal as a teacher is to get my kids to build relationships with each other and learn from one another. If they can learn how to do that, and start solving their problems together, they really won’t need to remember me or any of the content I delivered to them.”

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

“Easily, it’s those moments where a kid lets their guard down and levels with me about the way they feel. Sometimes it’s because they’re excited and happy, and [other times] it’s because something is wrong. Whenever I see that a kid is truly comfortable enough to share their emotions with me, I feel the most fulfilled.”


Earn Money for College While Serving in the Classroom 

Looking for an accelerated path to the classroom that comes with tuition assistance? City Year Little Rock has got you covered. 

Each academic year, the nonprofit trains and deploys up to 45 AmeriCorps members to its partner schools. These 17-to-25-year-old student-success coaches serve in the Little Rock School District, providing one-on-one and small group instruction; extended-day activities, such as homework assistance and after-school programming; and social-emotional skill-building sessions.

The results are amazing. Students served by City Year are two to three times more likely to improve in math and literacy. At the same time, AmeriCorps members receive valuable training, mentorship and hands-on experience to tackle the next step of their careers. Often, that’s full-time teaching positions.

Soon, it will be even easier for these AmeriCorps members to become certified teachers. 

Starting August 2023, young adults can apply for a two-year teaching fellowship with City Year Little Rock. First, they’ll serve as student success coaches. During their second year, they’ll enroll at an in-state educator prep program, earning course credit and logging classroom practicum hours as an AmeriCorps member. 

Students will also receive a biweekly stipend of $1,000, a $6,500 education award for tuition assistance, paid vacation, health insurance and 200-plus hours of professional development.

Ready to launch your career?

Apply at cityyear.org/little-rock

Become a Teacher for Free (Fast!)

If you're considering a career in teaching, a new initative from Teach Arkansas is something special to consider!

The Teacher Residency Path to Licensure program just launched this fall, created as an effort to encourage more students to become teachers and to teach in Arkansas.

High school students can earn a certified teaching assistant credential through residencies, then move on through a three-level process before becoming a fully-licensed teacher.

This FREE, fast-tracked education program is especially helpful students who are unable to get a traditional four-year degree due to time, money or work obligations.

More info: teacharkansas.org/become-a-teacher

Why I Love Being a Teacher!

What I love most about teaching is the chance to be creative in my work every day. I have to think outside of the box in terms of how to encourage growth and success in the students and colleagues I get to work with. No day is the same and that makes my job enjoyable and exciting.”

–Claire McClure, Northside High School in Fort Smith; reading facilitator

I get to walk down hallways every day full of living proof that there is a wide, diverse collection of people [in Arkansas] with different perspectives, ideas and cultures. Working with these young people to build a classroom community gives me hope for our future and the passion I need to keep fighting to make it better for them.”

 –Jesse Buchanan, Fayetteville High School; math teacher

The best part about teaching in Arkansas is the people. The students, parents and other professionals are kind and work to make tomorrow's world better than today's.”

–Cortney Lane, Quitman High School; math, robotics and college algebra teacher 

I love being a teacher because of the relationships I get to form with students throughout the year. To see how much they can grow by May – emotionally, socially, and academically – is such an honor. ”

–Kelsey Swearengen, eStem East Village Elementary School in Little Rock; first grade teacher

I wanted to use my life to make a difference. Being a teacher is the most rewarding career. I get to help students learn more about the world through math and figure out what they want to do with their futures. It is a huge opportunity to give back, and I'm so thankful I chose this career. Teaching might not be about making a lot of money, but it is certainly about making a difference.”

–Susanna Post, Belle Point Alternative Center in Fort Smith; math and business technology

Our scholars of Arkansas need someone to believe in them and never give up on their ability to strive. As Marva [Collins] stated in her divine quote, ‘learning is contagious,’ and once our impeccable scholars hear and see it each day, they will excel. I am proud to be a profound educator [in] Arkansas. I am thrilled to be in a classroom touching the lives of those who are placed in my care daily…making learning contagious; bringing it to life is my favorite part.” 

–Brycial Williams, Wynne Primary School;  early childhood education reading and writing specialist