LITTLE ROCK — Teachers from the Van Buren, Springdale, Lake Hamilton and Little Rock school districts were named state semi-finalists for 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year on Wednesday.


The finalists are Courtney Cochran, who teaches 10th-12th grade Spanish at Van Buren High School; Julia Crane, who teachers kindergarten-fifth grade English as a second language at Monitor Elementary School in Springdale; Brian Leonard, who teaches 11th-12th grade AP statistics and AP calculus at Lake Hamilton High School; and Emma Mateo, who was chosen for her work teaching kindergarten-fifth grade literacy and math at Otter Creek Elementary School but now teaches at Pinnacle View Middle School in Little Rock.


“I congratulate the four state semi-finalists for their dedication to their students, school and community,” state Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in a statement Wednesday. “These four have demonstrated strong leadership, commitment and best practices in education. They serve as models of excellence in education.”


The semi-finalists were chosen from 14 regional finalists. The regional finalists were honored and the semi-finalists announced in a ceremony Wednesday at the state Capitol attended by Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.


The Arkansas Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will conduct site visits that will include classroom observation and interviews with the semi-finalists and school administrators before selecting the Teacher of the Year later this fall.


Each semi-finalist received a medallion, a certificate and a $1,000 award sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation. The Teacher of the Year will receive an additional $14,000.