Capri Bell Salaam, a social studies teacher at North Little Rock Middle School, has been honored as the 2023 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. Salaam’s dedication to innovative teaching practices and her ability to connect with students from diverse backgrounds have set her apart as an exceptional educator.
The announcement came as a surprise to Salaam during a student assembly celebrating the school’s athletic and cheer teams. As she spotted her husband in the crowd, she knew something special was about to happen. Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key engaged the students in a trivia game before revealing the final acronym, ATOY (Arkansas Teacher of the Year), and calling Salaam to the center of the gymnasium to present her with an enlarged $14,000 check.
Expressing her gratitude, Salaam shared, “I feel incredibly blessed and loved and supported right now. It means a lot to represent the teachers and educators of Arkansas – the people who dedicate their lives on and off the clock to serve our children and the community.”
Capri Bell Salaam’s teaching approach focuses on making American history and geography come alive for her students. She engages them with hands-on activities, such as a mock crime scene investigation into the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and re-enactments of trench warfare. By tying history to the present and encouraging students to experience it firsthand, Salaam instills a love for learning and helps students see the relevance of the past in their lives today.
Recognized for her exceptional teaching abilities, Salaam serves as a multi-classroom lead teacher in social studies. In this role, she not only teaches her own classes but also coaches and collaborates with fellow teachers to enhance instructional practices. Principal Elise Hampton describes her as an excellent educator who builds strong relationships with students and goes above and beyond to support her colleagues.
As Arkansas’ Teacher of the Year, Salaam will receive a $14,000 grand prize, along with a one-year leave of absence. During her leave, she will serve as a teacher ambassador for the Arkansas Department of Education and as an ex-officio member of the state Board of Education. Salaam plans to use her platform to advocate for social and emotional learning and highlight the importance of early intervention and therapies for student success.
“From establishing an inviting culture for students by organizing cultural events throughout the year to ensuring students have access in high school to ACT preparation programs, financial aid workshops, and tutoring programs, Ms. Salaam’s dedication extends far beyond the time she engages with her students in the classroom,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson in a statement.
Capri Bell Salaam’s recognition as the 2023 Arkansas Teacher of the Year is a testament to her passion for education and her unwavering dedication to creating a dynamic and inclusive learning environment for her students.