Principal Shout Out

Stephanie Anderson - Helen Tyson Middle School Principal

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Helen Tyson Middle School principal Stephanie Anderson has a World War II map on her office wall. It is more than something to raise the curiosity of her visitors.

“My grandfather fought in the Pacific in World War II and I’ve always loved history,” Anderson explains. “When I taught history at Elmwood Middle School in Rogers, there was a World War II veteran named Ben Davis who served as a substitute teacher. He had to be in his early 80’s. He served in Europe in (General George) Patton’s third army and was one of the first American soldiers to arrive at Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

“Like the other solders who saw Dachau, he was stunned. He took three rolls of photos. Two were confiscated by the military but he still had one. I asked him year after year if he would show them to our students because I enjoyed having living history in our class when I could. Finally, he did, but had a hard time getting through it because of the emotion it evoked in him.”

Anderson’s passion for World War II history even led to a trip to Europe for her son’s senior trip when he was at Springdale Har-Ber High School.

My husband, Jon, daughter, Sydney, and son, Mason, all love history so we went World War II sightseeing,” Anderson says. “We went to Dachau. We went all over Germany and France. We visited Normandy. It was quite a trip.”

Stephanie and Jon made another trip to Europe when Sydney studied in Spain for six months while she was at the University of Central Arkansas.

“Sydney fell in love with Spanish class when she was at Southwest Junior High,” Anderson says. “She was an International Baccalaureate student with Carol Turley (program director) at Springdale High School. She earned a free ride in college, including studying abroad. We loved visiting her in Spain. Barcelona is amazing!”

Anderson believes serving as principal at Tyson Middle School is amazing, too. She says, “We do middle school well. Our staff does a great job. We have a lot of extras, from sports to band and choir. I go to all our sporting events and other activities. That’s why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.”

Anderson not only wanted to be a teacher. She wanted to be in Springdale. It took a long route to get her to Tyson Middle School.

“I lived in Springdale until I was 10 years old,” Anderson recalls. “I went to Westwood Elementary. We moved to Waldron because that’s where my grandparents lived. Moving was devastating for me. But, I developed a good work ethic. I started working when I was in the sixth grade. My mom owned a drive-in restaurant and I cooked, cleaned and waited on tables. I loved talking with all the people who came into the drive-in.”

Once Anderson became a high school student at Waldron, her cheerleader coach and history teacher was Cheri Young Rose.

“She took an interest in me,” Anderson recalls. “She was a great teacher. I wanted to be just like her. She made me captain of the cheer squad. She gave me responsibility. She made a difference in the lives of a lot of kids. She was very school spirited.”

While Mrs. Rose and her grandfather who fought in World War II stimulated Anderson’s interest in history, so did her mother, who has done extensive investigation into her family’s genealogy.

“Our family founded Parks Methodist Church, the first church in Scott County,” Anderson says. “I grew up a cemetery snooper. My mom visited cemeteries all over Scott County looking for headstones of our family members. She has developed quite a family tree. She discovered we had relatives in Alabama and Mississippi so one summer we visited them.”

While Anderson’s mother played a significant role in her life, she lost her father when she was five years old.

“My dad was a teacher at Rogers High School,” Anderson explains. “He helped start Special Olympics. He had a heart for kids. When I did my teaching internship in Rogers while I was finishing at the University of Arkansas, I heard a lot of great things about my dad.”

Anderson didn’t start her college career in Fayetteville. She spent three years at Hendrix but knew she wanted to live in Northwest Arkansas. So, she transferred to the UA. In order to earn money while she was in college, she worked at Tyson Foods on Masterpack and De-Bone lines and for the Arkansas Highway Department on the Bridge Crew. She was glad to finish college and begin teaching.

“My first job out of college was at Gravette, where I taught world geography,” recalls Anderson. “Then I went to Elmwood. I became the cheer coach, student council advisor and taught history. It was my dream job. I loved working in the history department with Jane Baldridge. She was a Civil War person. I would go into her class, watch her teach and take notes. She taught with passion.

“Ben Davis told me I should be a principal but I told him I never wanted to do that. He told me I could impact more students. Jamie Raines, who coached and taught at Elmwood, was working on a master’s and showed me what the workload was like. I saw that I could do that. \

“My grandmother had a master’s and taught for 32 years. My mom taught for 25 years, starting at Westwood, then at Waldron and finally at Fayetteville High School. Ben Davis knew I was working on my master’s but passed away before I finished.”

Anderson discovered Springdale was looking for an assistant principal at Tyson Middle School and Southwest Junior High. She applied and interviewed for both.

“I loved both interviews and really loved Susan Buchanan, who was the principal at the time, and Todd Loftin, who was an assistant principal,” Anderson says. “I took the job and have been here ever since. It’s been 15 years, nine as an assistant principal and six as principal.”

Anderson was named principal when Buchanan retired. What did she learn from Buchanan?

“Susan Buchanan is amazing,” Anderson replies. “She taught me how important it is to have a sense of humor. She was so organized and taught me how to take care of details. The job of principal isn’t one thing, it’s everything. She is still a very good friend and mentor. I talk to her frequently. She spends a lot of time with her four grandchildren.”

How does Anderson spend her time away from school?

“Jon and I like to remodel homes,” Anderson answers. “We bought a house in Scott County, remodeled it and sold it. We did another one in Vaughn. Jon is amazing. He is very handy. He just built a pavilion at our house. We also like to spend time at the lake and floating rivers.”

Anderson also enjoys time with her kids, even as they have grown. Sydney works at Walmart in the audit department and is going to law school. Mason planned to join the Air Force but once COVID hit, he enrolled at Northwest Arkansas Community College instead. He also works at Harp’s.

While her family takes first priority, Anderson knows “I need to be here, at Tyson Middle School. We have a great team. I love these kids. I enjoy seeing them in the community, long after they’ve been at our school. Sometimes they will apologize for something they did when they were at Tyson Middle School but I usually don’t even remember those things.”

Anderson does remember the important role she and her staff play in the development of the sixth and seventh graders at Helen Tyson Middle School. She is among the principals that help make Springdale Public Schools #THEChoice.