Shelly Poage

Shelly R. Poage

John Tyson Elementary School
Springdale Public Schools
Springdale, Arkansas

Shelly Poage has served the last three of her 10 years of principalship as leader of John Tyson Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas. Throughout her tenure, Tyson has received multiple recognitions for outstanding “against the odds” improvement, including being identified by the Arkansas Department of Education in 2017 and 2018 as among the top 5 percent of schools for student growth. This distinction is particularly impressive given the school’s high-poverty and linguistically diverse population, with 10 languages spoken by the school’s 560 students. Poage credits Tyson’s success to its “positive and inclusive school culture that appreciates and celebrates our uniqueness,” an ethos that reflects her passion for highly personalized, innovative strategies that center and enhance student agency. This approach is deeply informed by Poage’s experience visiting innovative New Zealand schools as part of a Global Learning Journey group and has yielded creative models for teaching the qualities and skills of lifelong learners. Student-led Passion Projects, for example, give students the opportunity to develop and implement community-based initiatives that draw on their studies beyond the established curriculum. She has shared strategies and reflections on this work through her personal blog, as well as through district-level and national professional development. Poage is a doctoral candidate at Harding University and holds an M.Ed. from the University of Arkansas and a B.S. in Education from the University of North Dakota.