The Arkansas Department of Education has announced that Jil'lana Heard, LHSD Teacher of the Year, is one of 12 regional finalists for the State Teacher of the Year award.  Heard is the library media specialist at Lake Hamilton High School.

The 12 regional finalists will be recognized at an event August 5 at the Governor’s Mansion. During the event, the four state semi-finalists will be announced.

“After such a challenging school year, it is my honor to recognize some of the best teachers around the state,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “The 2020-2021 school year was unprecedented; however, Arkansas’ teachers rose to the occasion. Unlike many other states, schools in Arkansas were open throughout the entire school year. It is because of dedicated teachers, like those recognized today, that our students didn’t miss a day of learning. Congratulations to the regional finalists, and thank you for leading by example both in and out of the classroom.”

"On behalf of the Lake Hamilton School District, I offer our congratulations to Mrs. Jil’Lana Heard for earning her position as a regional finalist for Arkansas Teacher of the Year.  Mrs. Heard is an outstanding representative for our district and community.  Her enduring commitment to excellence, along with her passion and energy for her profession, make Jill a great choice for the Arkansas Teacher of the Year.  We are excited to wholeheartedly support Mrs. Heard as she continues through the next round."  Shawn Higginbotham, LHSD Superintendent

"Congratulations to our own, Jil’lana Heard, on being named a regional winner in the Arkansas Teacher of the Year competition. Jil’ana is passionate about students mastering the most fundamental academic skill: reading. She is an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled teacher. She is a published author and an expert who guides and inspires students and adults of varying backgrounds and abilities to learn. She is respected and admired by her students, colleagues, and the Lake Hamilton School District Community. She demonstrates leadership and innovation both inside and outside the walls of the traditional classroom. I cannot imagine a person fitting the mold of Arkansas Teacher of the Year better than our Lake Hamilton High School library media specialist, Jil’Lana Heard." Donald Westerman, LHHS Principal

Each regional finalist will receive a certificate and a $1,000 prize provided by the Walton Family Foundation. 

The Arkansas Teacher of the Year program is part of the National Teacher of the Year program, which recognizes teachers for their teaching and leadership skills. The four state semi-finalists that will be announced on August 5 will be selected from among the 12 regional finalists. One of the four state semi-finalists will be named the 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year this fall and will apply to become the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. Some State Board of Education members may attend the August 5 event at the Governor’s Mansion, but no official business will be conducted.

To learn more about the ATOY program, visit