SMS Teacher of the Year


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Sonora Middle School EAST instructor Derek Ratchford has been selected as the SMS Teacher of the Year! The SMS leadership team voted unanimously to select, Mr. Ratchford as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. Mr. Ratchford has some major accomplishments that have set him apart for this honor. He is the second teacher from Arkansas, ever selected as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a field-based professional development opportunity made possible by a partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. When travel conditions allow, Ratchford and the other 49 Teacher Fellows will embark on a one-to-three week voyage aboard a Lindblad Expedition ship.

Mr. Ratchford has seven years teaching experience, with 5 as the SMS EAST facilitator. Derek has led his EAST teams to win the prestigious Founder's Award twice in the last three years. Ratchford adds, "education is about helping every student find their passion for learning through strong relationships and individualized instruction that connects them to their interests through innovative educational experiences and problem based learning. It is my job as an educator to do whatever it takes to reach every child and help them be successful both now and in the future."

Mr. Ratchford has written and been awarded multiple grants to support his project based classroom like the Blue & You Grant, the Beyond the Bell Grant, the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Grant and two Springdale Education Foundation Grants. He has served on the SMS Leadership team for the past 4 years and has been instrumental in the school being awarded the distinction of a National Schools to Watch and an Arkansas School of Innovation.

Derek Ratchford has been nominated for the Staff Super Spartan by many students every month and has won staff member of the month multiple times. Below are a few of the things his students have had to say about him:

  • Mr. Ratchford puts a lot of extra time in with students to make our community better and safer place. He always does it with a smile and helps where ever he can. He also has school spirit and puts up with our crazy ideas.
  • Mr. Ratchford inspires his students to Live up to their dreams and he looks at what we're capable of and what we're not. Even with the the things that aren't our strong suit he still helps us get better with those things. He seeks greatness within each and every student. He takes chances with us. He respects himself and others. When he does something wrong he takes responsibility to it. Most importantly he never quits on his students and himself, he also gives back to others.
  • He can make children happy. He works hard to the point where he deserves more than he gets. We follow him and he listens to us, he is like a brother to us. A leader is what Mr. Ratchford is and Mr. Ratchford is a leader. I wish him the best to be not just nominated SUPER Spartan but, to be the most loving friend ever!
  • Mr. Ratchford is always thinking of others before himself
  • Mr.Ratchford is very helpful but he also pushes us to do our best everyday. He is a true SUPER Spartan.
  • Mr. Ratchford not only helps me but he always pushes me to try harder. He is funny he always seeks greatness he never quits, he gives back, and he always takes chances to do what is right. He helps me every day with something that I need help with. He also tries hard everyday to make sure that we are getting our work done. He is ALL of the SUPER SPARTAN character traits.
  • He pushes us to be our best student and person. He is funny and hardworking. He loves us and wants us to experience failure and success.
  • Mr. Ratchford never quits. He never gives up on teaching us. He never gives up on me most of all. If I need something he will help me, he never gives up on what I can do. he helped me through my tough project that I wanted to give up on. Another thing that represents Mr. Ratchford is, he seeks greatness everyday. He looks for the best in everyday. Even if something is going on he still is seeking greatness and making others feel good. Another thing he is good at that represents "SUPER Spartan" is that he takes chances. He is never afraid to do something. He takes chances everyday!! Mr. Ratchford is a great teacher for this!!

As you can see, Derek Ratchford is an exceptional teacher, EAST facilitator and leader at Sonora Middle School. CONGRATULATIONS, MR. RATCHFORD!

Sonora Middle School

Dr. Martha Dodson, Principal

Brett Unger, Assistant Principal

Kimberly Bowerman, Assistant Principal