Courtesy of: Times Record
By Alex Golden / Times Record /

The Arkansas Department of Education named a Van Buren High School teacher the 2017 Teacher of the Year on Thursday in a surprise ceremony.

Courtney Cochran, who teaches six levels of Spanish, will receive one year of paid administrative leave for professional development purposes, according to a news release. She will spend the 2017-18 school year travelling around the state learning from and teaching other teachers and serving as a non-voting member on the State Board of Education.

Cochran is excited to learn from other educators and to impact more students, she said.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to reach out to students all across the state,” she said.

This is Cochran’s 11th year teaching Spanish. She is also the sponsor for the school’s Spanish honor society, SHH, and the co-sponsor of the Partners Club.

“I feel like Spanish and world languages are the perfect complement to any subject area,” she said.

Cochran went to schools in Bryant and Benton.

“I had a teacher in the ninth grade who just opened up the world for me, and she was my Spanish teacher,” Cochran said. “I fell in love with the language and with the culture.”