Elizabeth Thomas, pre-K 4 teacher at ACCESS Early Childhood, was recommended for our Amazing Educator award by parents of students in her class. Each nominator recognized and appreciated Thomas’ ability to connect with both her students and their families.

“She has developed a strong rapport with each parent's child,” shared one of her nominators. “She definitely advocates for her students. As a parent, I cannot thank her enough for how she has fought for my child. As parents, we will always fight and advocate for our children, but when you have a teacher to do it as well, it makes all the difference in the world.”

Thomas also values the parent-teacher relationship. “For children with special needs, there are ever-changing variables that can influence success, from medication, sleep patterns, diets, changes in the home, etc. When parents and educators can work as a team by communicating new frustrations, changes, etc., we can best help students and their families navigate those paths toward success.” Parents of Thomas’ students appreciate how she lives out that philosophy with a weekly planner that she sends home for parents to continue learning classroom concepts with their child at home.

Thomas came to education naturally. What started as an easy love and connection with kids she grew up babysitting, transformed to a passion that guided Thomas to dedicate her career to children with special needs. “I discovered working with children with different abilities was extremely rewarding, and it felt amazing to be able to help them learn in a way that works for them.”

She finds working in early childhood especially gratifying. “ACCESS’ team approach with co-teaching and inclusive therapy provides the optimal learning environment. The growth we see over just one year is extraordinary, and it is so rewarding to be a part of their growth.”

Outside of school, Thomas loves what many Arkansans enjoy about the Natural State: hiking, camping and time with family. She uses the rest of her free time to paint in her dedicated art room. Her students also benefit from her creative energy.

“You should see her classroom,” said one of the parents from her class. “It's amazing with all the education material posted. She changes out her boards weekly, constantly involving dress up with a topic.” Other creative touches she adds to her lessons include incorporating music and frequent crafts to drive home concepts.

Thomas also uses her artistic abilities to help out with ACCESS’ major annual fundraising events Bingo Bash and Starry Starry Night and the fun, educational Literacy Night. She chips in by designing booths, making signs and creating decorations.

As a pre-K 4 teacher, Thomas’ favorite part of the year is seeing her kids' growth culminate in ACCESS’ graduation book walk. “Each child chooses a favorite book we have read that year. This is my favorite memory because you get to witness the growth and confidence in each child as they get to express what they’ve learned and accomplished.”