Former Paragould student, now this month’s Teacher of the Month inspires others

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 7:03 PM CDT
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PARAGOULD, Ark. (KAIT) - “She cares and you can tell she cares,” said student Gage Kinder as he described Kelli Rollins-Stidham.

This week across the country teachers are being honored for their work inside and outside the classroom for Teachers Appreciation Week.

“She’s a strong woman, I wish I could be like that,” said Nicolas Garcia, a senior at Paragould High School.

Kelli Rollins-Stidham is an AP Language, Composition, and Literature teacher at Paragould High School.

“They are incredible,” she said describing her students. “These kids are incredible.”

She has been a teacher for 13 years, 12 of those at Paragould High School.

The memories can be seen around her classroom.

“I think in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to do this,” she said. “Even though there were a lot of voices around me saying maybe you want to do something bigger. There is nothing bigger than this.”

Each day and each year is new, and her students’ willingness to learn continues to bring her back to the classroom each day ready to teach.

“It’s a great privilege, and I also have the distinct honor of teaching my kids two years in a row, and so I have the chance to get to know them better than I think some teachers have the chance to,” said Rollins-Stidham.

She teaches juniors and seniors now. These are students that are nearing the end of high school and headed out into the real world.

“She is one of the reasons I am able to live on campus in college. She helped raise my ACT score, my reading and English scores by 10 points each,” said Garcia.

Rollins-Stidham’s career has come full circle because she was once a Paragould Ram.

“You learn, you are engaged, you are connected,” said one of her students, Kyln Lamb. “So, you are one big family.”

From embracing a family atmosphere to making sure each student feels seen.

“She made us each a personalized bookmark for something that reminded her of us. Mine was a little bottle of sunshine. She said that is what I reminded her of,” said senior Hannah Murphy.

Her students said they knew she should be chosen for teacher of the month.

“She can tell if we are having a bad day, having a bad week,” said Lamb. “And she gives us a little gift or something, a little sticky note that says we got this or something to pick us up for the week.”

Her classroom is filled with creativity and expression, but for her students, it’s a space where they have learned perseverance.

“I think it is her coming back from her downs because she had a really down year last year and she came back for us and taught us and made sure we were ready for our tests,” said Garcia.

Rollins-Stidham said her students continue to bring her joy and she knows once they graduate they will do well.

“They are kind, they are compassionate, and they are empathetic and caring and if they are the future then we are in perfectly good hands,” she said.