1. When did you attend Henderson and in what activities did you participate?
I attended HSU in 1990 and graduated in 1994, in 1999-2001, and again in 2006-2008 for the Educational Leadership Program. I was involved in CBS, SGA, RHA, the Angelic Voices for Christ, and I joined Arkansas Education Association.
2. What was your major? What prompted you to pursue your particular degree?
In 1990, I entered the Educational Preparation Program which was formally known as the Teacher’s College and received a BA in Elementary Education and a Minor in Social Studies. I received my Educational Leadership/Administrative Degree followed by obtaining a degree as an Educational Specialist. I have a long legacy of educators who influenced me to become an educator. My Aunt Kaye Person is a retired K-12 Music teacher with 40 years of experience. My Aunt Thelma Nancy Runion is a special education teacher at Newport High School, and this is her 46th year in the profession. She is still teaching! My dad retired after 38 years in the education profession. My mother completed 40 years as an elementary and middle school teacher. My younger sister, Lea Metcalf McDonald, is completing her 20th year and is the Federal Programs Director in Texarkana, Arkansas. My younger sister, Skye Metcalf Do, is completing her 10th year as a kindergarten teacher. My husband, Tracy Forte’, is completing his 29th year as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Everyone in my family was or is a teacher in the public school system. It is a part or our legacy. I watched my parents and my family shape the future one child at a time, and I decided I wanted to become an educator to give something back to my community.
3. Why did you choose Henderson?
I had two major reasons for selecting Henderson State University. The first reason was my dad, the late Garry Metcalf, instilled in all three of his daughters to have a desire and drive to be one the best! I had to choose a university with a reputation of being the best. Henderson was the best, and the legacy continues today. The second reason I chose Henderson was I was offered a minority scholarship to enter the field of education. My mother was attending graduate school when I entered college, and our family was a middle class family with a middle class budget. My goal was to go attend college and be debt-free when I graduated from college. I had two baby sisters who were still at home, and I did not want to create a financial strain on our family budget. The minority scholarship combined with an academic scholarship allowed me to attend college for free. HSU was the only organization offering minority scholarships to address the shortage of minority educators.Once again, HSU was on the cutting edge of education.
4. What is your hometown? From what high school did you graduate and in what year?
I was born in the Clarksville, Arkansas. My dad was a coach, and I lived in DeValls Bluff Wynne, Ashdown, and Texarkana, Arkansas. I graduated from Ashdown High School in 1990, and I was fortunate and blessed to receive an education that prepared me to be a successful college student.
5. What is your current occupation and your primary focus? Briefly describe what you do (or have done in the past if you choose to include that).
I am the superintendent of the Mineral Springs School District. Serving as a district administrator gives me an opportunity to provide educational experiences for students that will prepare them for a life beyond high school. My goal is to give teachers the tools and support needed so they will have an opportunity to effectively shape and mold their students. I am a product of public schools, and I believe in the power of a strong public school system. The strength of the community, state, and the country rests on the shoulders of public educators. Serving as a superintendent is a life-changing experience. I see the world with a different lens because I am responsible for the future of every child in our school district.
6. Please “chart” your education and career progression since you graduated Henderson. And what are your future plans?
This is my 25th year as an Arkansas educator. In 1994, I began my career at Kilpatrick Elementary School. I was blessed to be under the leadership of Janie Pumphrey, Sandra Calloway, Glenda Walker, Marietha Neal, and Elen Holmes. I taught in the Texarkana, Texas, Independent School District at Dunbar Elementary School. In 2002, I returned to the Texarkana, Arkansas, School District. I had the luxury of teaching in the same school with my mother, Cordia Metcalf. In 2004, I began my career in administration at Arkansas High School, also in Texarkana. This was a very special time in my educational career because I had an opportunity to work on the same campus with my dad, Garry Metcalf, my husband, Tracy Forte’, and I was my sister’s principal. My dad, my husband, and I were able to hand my sister, Skye Metcalf Do, her diploma in 2005. In 2008, I became the principal at Union Elementary School. In 2017, I became the superintendent of the Mineral Springs School District. I am going to be eligible for retirement in two years. I still enjoy the public school system, and I have plans to continue as a public school educator until destiny or fate leads me in a new direction. In the future, I will explore other possibilities such as teaching on the college level, writing a book, providing professional development, or becoming an educational consultant. It is a long standing joke between our friends that I could take all of my family members who are currently practicing or retired from the field of education, and we could start our own consultant company. I am not sure what the future holds, but I do know my future plans will give me another opportunity to work with educators for the sole purpose of improving education for students and teachers.
7. How has your degree benefited you in your career progression?
I attended HSU for all three of my degrees. I give credit to God, my family, and to HSU for my ability to be an effective educator. I learned how to engage the community in Dr. Kenneth Harris’ class. I learned how to teach Language Arts and English in Dr. Lonnie McDonald’s class. The most impactful educators in my advanced degree plans were Dr. Johnnie Roebuck and Dr. Penny Ferguson. These two ladies used real-life personal experiences to enhance their curriculum. I have used everything I learned in my undergraduate and graduate classes. At times it seems as though my professors had a magic mirror which allowed them to see into the future. Many of the concepts they taught us in class were progressive. As students we were at least 10 years ahead of the latest developments in education simply because our professors were progressive, outside of the box, and never lost touch with the struggles of a classroom teacher, students, parents, the community, and district level leaders.
8. What aspect of your degree/career most interests you and what do you enjoy most about your profession?
I love kids. I still get a rush when I have an opportunity to work with the students and see the “light bulb come on.” As a district level leader, I still find opportunities to “borrow” classrooms K-12 to teach a class every now and then. I am grateful to teachers who allow me to borrow their classes. When the Senior Class graduates, I will know the name of every student who walks across the stage. I will know where they are going to college. I will know their ACT score. Finally, I know their parents, and I will know if they have a family pet. Being a district-level administrator is the best of both worlds.
I still get an intrinsic reward when I observe educators having the “aha moment.” I enjoy opportunities to attend PLC sessions to see teachers at work. Watching teachers plan and trouble shoot together gives me energy and a desire to do more to help students and teachers. Superman gets his strength from the sun. My strength is a combination of energy from the students and teachers.
9. Would you recommend your degree track at Henderson (of course you would!) and why? Any advice for current students?
I am one of the last groups of students who obtained all three of my degrees through the traditional method. I had to attend face-to-face classes. Dr. Kenneth Harris exposed his students to field experiences during the second year of the teacher education program. This was an act of genius. We learned effective instructional methods and effective classroom management two years before we had to student teach. The field experience and student teaching were the two cornerstones of the teacher preparation program. I was able to enter the profession with all the tools I needed to be an effective teacher. When I obtained the Educational Specialist Degree, Dr. Roebuck created cohorts. We are still very close today. For students who have entered the traditional or nontraditional preparation programs, one of the most powerful experiences they can have is an opportunity to student teach or to work with students in the public school setting before they are required to assume a complete transfer of duties as the classroom teacher. Hands-on training provided by effective and accomplished master teachers is a valuable resource. My advice for people entering the profession is to create life-long relationships with your peers and colleagues. Part of your ability to survive as a public educator is to have a network of friends who share your desire and your passion for education. Henderson State has never lost sight of this precious commodity, and for this reason, the teacher education program at HSU is so successful.
10. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you related to your degree since you graduated from Henderson?
I met my husband, Tracy Forte, at HSU. When you marry a Reddie, you marry your friend and you have a life-long partner. My family has a tradition and that tradition is the older sister has to work and help her younger sister. Six years after I completed my first degree, my sister, Lea Metcalf McDonald, was obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Education at HSU while I pursued the Educational Leadership Degree. I played the piano at a church to make extra money, and my dad started a lawn care business to help both of us. I was proud to see my baby sister follow in my footsteps. She is an accomplished educator in the Texarkana Arkansas School District.
11. If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Could you share something that most people don’t know about you? I would describe myself as a God-fearing individual who strives to do what is right. I place an emphasis on accountability. I hold myself accountable long before others. I am a task-master, and always on the move. I am a homebody who is most satisfied when I am home with my family. I covet family time. I am a calculated risk-taker especially when the benefits of my students outweigh the risks. During a stressful day at work, a moment playing the piano is my most effective stress relief. The sound, feel, and touch of music has the ability to create stability in an unstable situation. The one thing that shocks most people is that I had a disability when I was in elementary school. I was ADHD, and also had speech impairment. Four years of speech therapy corrected this disorder. The power of having a dedicated mother who was also a teacher supplied me the tools I needed to overcome this disability. Instead of avoiding a workshop because I could not process the information, I am now able to conduct workshops to help my fellow educators.
12. What other degree did you consider pursuing?
I have always wanted to be a teacher. When I was a little girl, I would line my dolls up and I would pretend I was the teacher. I guess I was a pretty good teacher, because the dolls continued to come to my class.
13. Please list any awards or honors. (There are 39 of them, so I am giving you an abbreviated list).
I do not like to receive awards because awards recognize an infidel person. Every award was made possible because I was surrounded by a team of educators who strived to make a difference every day.
2004 National Board Certified Teacher
2004 Bessie B. Moore Economics Teacher Award: Elementary Category
2005 Bessie B. Moore Economics Award: High School Category
2005 AEA Arkansas Civil Rights Award
2005 State National Board Advisory Board
2006 Renaissance Extraordinary Educator Award
2007 ARTSMART Educator Award
2008 Omega Psi Phi Educator of the Year Award
2010 NAACP Educator of the Year Award
2011 Educator of the Year Award Zeta Phi Beta
2013 TRAHC Art Educator of the Year
2014 Designated Master Principal
2014 National School Change Award
2015 Distinguished Magnet School Award
2017 Superintendent Mineral Springs School District
14. Finally, feel free to add any additional comments.
I seize every opportunity to expose the students in the Mineral Springs School District to the magic that comes from the iconic water fountain that is a visual and tangible representation of the “Reddie Spirit.” I want to thank HSU and Dr. Jones for giving my students opportunities to experience “the school with a heart.” My husband Tracy and I sat on the bench outside Arkansas Hall 28 years ago, and we are still married. My most favorite stanza of our school alma mater is “Beauty and friendship, Eternal as the holly, unto all her children Alma Mater Henderson.” There is something about that, Old Reddie Spirit.” You cannot see it, but you sure can feel it. A true Reddie gives this gift to friends and family members to make sure the legacy continues to live forever.