In just her second year at the Don Tyson School of Innovation, Tara Elzer has been named Arkansas Scholastic School Counselor Association Northwest Arkansas High School Counselor of the Year!

“I was surprised,” Elzer said. “I didn’t know Kelly Boortz (DTSOI principal) had nominated me. When I was named, they showed me the letter Mrs. Boortz wrote on my behalf. I was humbled. It was such a kind letter. It meant a lot to me.”

Elzer has been in public education for 23 years as a counselor and teacher. A graduate of Arkansas Tech with her master’s in counseling from Arkansas-Little Rock, Elzer taught in her hometown of Lamar, served as a counselor in Charlotte, N.C., and Fayetteville before teaching two years in Charleston, S.C. She returned g to Northwest Arkansas as a counselor in Rogers before accepting the position at the DTSOI.

“I was very happy in Rogers,” Elzer said. “It is a great school system. But I was attracted to the way the Don Tyson School of Innovation is a different way of doing education. I jumped at the chance to work at the school. I believe it is the future of education. Students need many options and the DTSOI offers more options than any school in Arkansas.

“Next year phase two of the DTSOI is opening and there will be an entire new set of options. That is energizing. We had a recent parent’s night for those who may be interested in enrolling their students in the DTSOI. I loved the look of amazement in their eyes as they were made aware of the many options available.”

So many options are available at the DTSOI, Elzer has to make sure she is continually up to speed in order to share information.

“Serving at the DTSOI is always changing,” Elzer said. “You have to be on your toes. We are the only school I am aware of that offers blended options. Students can come to the school for some classes and take others virtually. Plus, students are able to not only earn an associate’s degree while still in high school but also can be certified in so many areas.

“Without Dr. (Superintendent Jim) Rollins’ vision, the Don Tyson School of Innovation wouldn’t exist. This school is a result not only of his vision but the relationships he has built with members of the Springdale community over decades.”

Elzer is now a candidate for Arkansas High School Counselor of the Year. The winner will be announced in late spring.