Three new staffers settling in at Cooper
As students settle into routines at Cooper Elementary School, so too are a few new staff members.
Samantha Doherty is the new speech-language pathologist at Cooper Elementary School and, in some cases, that means she helps students find a voice.
Children who see the speech pathologist range from kids who can’t seem to form certain sounds to those who need a device to help them communicate. Devices range from iPads to speech generators.
Some students she will see once a week, others will come to her more often. Sometimes, her students may work within a small group, but other students need one-on-one attention, she said. She can have a caseload of 45 students, but she doesn’t think there will be that many.
Doherty grew up near St. Louis and went to Southeast Missouri State University. She went to college planning to become a teacher, but she decided that being a classroom teacher wasn’t for her. She wanted to work with kids, but not a whole classroom full at a time. When an aunt suggested speech pathology, she decided it was what she wanted to do.
She worked for two years in northeast Missouri, then she met her fiancé. He comes from this area, she explained, so they had to choose where to live. They chose Bentonville and so far, she has no regrets.
When she’s not working, Doherty spends most of her time hanging out with family and friends. She enjoys reading.
Carol Styron introduced herself as the oldest native Bella Vistan you’ll ever meet. The new Cooper school nurse was born and raised in Bella Vista in a family of nurses.
After graduating from the NWACC nursing program, she went into ICU nursing, where she learned a lot.
“I was good at it,” she said, but it took a toll on her family life so she decided to try home healthcare. Home healthcare also demanded long hours. While she spent some of those hours working from home, she still wasn’t there for her family.
Last year she became a school nurse and split her time between Bentonville’s two high schools. After spending her first summer home with her children, she’s happy to be at Cooper.
While elementary-age children tend to be cuter than high school students, they are less able to be responsible for their own health, so they need an adult more. By high school, students are independent. Even high school diabetics need little assistance from the school nurse.
When she interacts with parents, she can put herself in their shoes and decide when they need to be notified of an issue. Sometimes it’s a note, while other times it may be a phone call.
Styron still lives close to the home where she grew up and is close to her parents. Her mother retired from emergency-room nursing and is a substitute nurse with the Bentonville School District, so if Styron misses a day of work, it will likely be her mother who fills in.
When she’s not at work, Styron, who used to have her own landscaping business, likes to work in the garden. With her husband and sons, she likes to kayak, canoe and fish.
Cooper’s new counselor, Buddy Herndon, has enjoyed a varied career. He’s been a coach, a PE teacher, a special ed teacher, an assistant principal and, most recently, a counselor.
He was born in Brinkley and went to high school in North Little Rock. He went to the University of Central Arkansas and then spent 10 years coaching junior high school and high school football and track.
While he was working on his master’s degree, he taught in a special education classroom. Instead of finding a job as a counselor, he was hired as an assistant principal.
He worked in Hope and then in central Arkansas, where he moved to be closer to his family.
In central Arkansas, he spent three years coaching track at his alma mater, UCA. Then he returned to special education.
In 2011, Herndon and his wife, who is also a teacher, decided there were better opportunities in Northwest Arkansas. They were both hired by the Bentonville School District. Herndon started at R.E. Baker as a counselor, but it was difficult to schedule around his younger daughter’s off time since Baker was a nontraditional calendar school. So Herndon, the last few years, split his time between two other elementary schools.
Looking back, he said he can’t choose his favorite type of job. Each job gave him a chance to make a difference and that’s what’s important, he said.
“Administrators are also counselors,” he said. “So are coaches.”
For Herndon, it’s all about relationships.
He doesn’t plan to change too much in the counseling department at Cooper. He’s already been to his first Kiwanis meeting, so he’s prepared to restart the Kiwanis Kids program. It’s important, he said, for kids to have the chance to give back. At other schools he had his students making cards to hand out at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and he’ll probably continue that.
He and his wife just bought a house on Beaver Lake. When they’re not working, they enjoy the lake. They have three kids, including one who works as a school librarian at Baker, and the youngest, who is still a Bentonville High School student.
Buddy Herndon has worked in schools ranging from elementary to university as a teacher, administrator, coach and counselor.
As a speech pathologist, Samantha Doherty works with students with a range of disabilities.
The new school nurse at Cooper Elementary, Carol Styron, has roots in the city.