Once viewed as a long vacation for teachers, summers are now primarily devoted to preparation and training to more effectively teach the students of our state.

Twenty-five years ago, teachers locked their rooms on the last day of school and were not seen again until required in-service training that occurred over a one- or two-day period prior to the students return to class. Most of that preparation time was devoted to class roles, arrangement of the room, and filling out required job related forms.

That is no longer the case. Teachers today are required mandatory training consisting of from 36 to 60 hours of instruction. With additional required training in everything from dyslexia, suicide, child trafficking and operating a heart message machine, teachers often find themselves working virtually every day during the summer break.

Although some of the training is offered by individual school districts, most professional development is offered cooperatively to schools through the Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative located at Branch. The educational cooperative has trained staff that offer departmentalized assistance to teachers in a wide range of educational formats ranging from technology and vocational training to the traditional reading, writing, science, and mathematics.

During the summer, parking lots at the coop and at County Line school overflow with teacher vehicles. Additional classes are held at the University of the Ozarks, UA Fort Smith, various school districts, and at the Janet Huckabee Nature Center in Fort Smith.

Training is also provided to school administrative and secretarial staff, custodians, and even bus drivers and hundreds of courses provide educational staff the opportunity to keep up with the latest trends in education, learn safety rules for laboratory, or even opportunities to learn about outdoor classrooms by hiking on Magazine Mountain or to float the Mulberry River with state biologists.

Often called the “best kept secret in the state educational system,” the educational cooperatives provide an effective and efficient method of assisting schools in providing the best possible training to effectively educate our children.

Centered at County Line Schools, Guy Fenter education service cooperative is one of 14 educational cooperatives scattered throughout the state. Guy Fenter provides direct assistance to 22 school districts located in Logan, Franklin, Scott, Sebastian, Crawford, and Johnson County. The director is Roy Hester and Professional Development coordinator is Cheryl Ziegler.