Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TOP STORY > >Beebe chamber recognizes excellence

Leader staff writer

It was a night of well-kept secrets during the Beebe Chamber of Commerce annual banquet held last week at the ASU-Beebe University Café.

The chamber presented the Lifetime Service Award to chamber of commerce director Ruth Couch.
Couch said she was totally astonished with the award.

“It makes me feel rewarded for the things that I’ve done, the fun things and the things that were more difficult,” she said.

Couch said, “It gives me renewed energy to go out and accomplish more, knowing that I am appreciated by my colleagues. I have no idea how they got all the information, but it made the evening very special. It brought a delightful finish to this year’s work.”

Couch received her bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in English at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

She earned her master’s degree in education at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. Couch then went on to receive her doctorate degree in English from Oklahoma State University.

Couch taught in Arkansas public schools for nine and a half years. She taught three and a half years at Oklahoma State University.

Her career spanned 32 year at ASU-Beebe. She was an associate professor, a professor, a division chair and vice chancellor of academic affairs. Couch was the first full-time professor at ASU-Beebe and the first woman at ASU-Beebe to have a doctorate degree. She has been chairwoman of many committees over the years. For 22 years, Couch was a consultant for the Higher Learning Commission.

When Couch retired from the university in 2003, she did not slow down. Couch became the Beebe Chamber of Commerce director. She taught two English classes at ASU-Beebe and eight classes on autobiography and fiction at the Shepherd’s Center.

Couch published her novel, “No Bells Will Ring” in 2009 and this year recorded her title as a audio book for the blind. She has edited two novels for colleagues and two biographies.

The Educator of the Year Award went to kindergarten and first-grade counselor Jamie Burns of Beebe Early Childhood School.

Burns said, “When I realized (awards presenter Robert Beavers) was describing me, I immediately thought of all the others I thought would be deserving of this award. And I wondered what my chances were of exiting stage right.”

Burns graduated from Beebe High School in 1974. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Burns began teaching at Glenview Elementary School in North Little Rock. Then she taught special education at Beebe Elementary School for two years.

She stepped away from teaching to raise a family with her husband Buddy. They have four children: sons, Josh, Jake, Judd and daughter, Jordan.

Burns re-entered the classroom in 1992 teaching first grade at Beebe Elementary School. She became a counselor at the school in 1997.

She went back to UCA and earned a master’s degree in school counseling in 2001. Burns was a Beebe Elementary School counselor until 2009 when she was transferred to Beebe Early Childhood School.

School superintendent Belinda Shook has referred to Burns as “the world’s greatest little kids counselor.”

The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Penny Parchman, Beebe’s Angel Tree program organizer.

Parchman said the Angle Tree program a range support with the community involvement of individuals, schools, businesses, churches and organizations.

The Angel Tree program helps make Christmas better for over 600 needy children from newborn to 12 years old in the Beebe area. It also helps families who have suffered a disaster such as a house fire.

The Angel Tree program began in 1981 with the Beebe Junior Civic League. When the civic league dissolved in 1986, Parchman took over the Angel Tree program. She and her husband Lester had two buildings built on their property to store donations.

Work on the Angel Tree program begins in July with the sending out of applications to the school districts to learn which children are in need.

Ian Ellis was the chamber of commerce-Future Business Leaders of America $500 college scholarship recipient. He is the FBLA vice president of public relations.

Ellis plans on attending the University of Central Arkansas to major in business planning. He would like to earn a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing to become a marketing manager.

Ian is the son of Troy and Tess Ellis. He has volunteered working with Special Olympics, the Arkansas Food Bank, Arkansas Hospice and other organizations.