BY JACLYN ROSE –
Elizabeth Tompkins found her calling in life at an early age. “Growing up I had a cousin that was special needs and all through school the teacher would come and get me and I would help him with his work. This showed me that the population of special needs children needed help. I knew that this was my calling and where I would spend my life. I knew he could do the work, he just did it differently than me and needed to be shown how to do it differently. During that time, many of the teachers would put the special needs students in classrooms and give them coloring sheets and I thought, he can do so much more than coloring sheets. My goal as a special needs teacher was to never make them sit and do coloring sheets. Each one is an individual and sees things in a different way and when you acknowledge that, you can see them thrive and make improvements,” explained Tompkins.
After graduating from DeQueen High School in 1987, Tompkins spent two years at Rich Mountain Community College (RMCC) before transferring to Henderson State University to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Special Education. “RMCC was a good transition between high school and a major university. Going from a small high school to a big college would’ve been hard but going to RMCC enabled me to stay home and save money and pay to complete my education,” Tompkins said.
Tompkins married her husband, Jimmy, in 2008 and she has two children, Ashley and Patrick, and one grandbaby. “Jimmy is the love of my life. He keeps me focused and grounded and centered. When my children were growing up I really enjoyed being involved in their lives and going to their activities. Watching them play sports and watching my daughter play in the band kept me running, but I loved it,” said Tompkins.
Tompkins taught Special Education in Hartford and Mansfield before moving back to Polk County and teaching at Vandervoort for two years. Six years ago, she was hired by Mena Public Schools and has worked in the Special Education department of Mena Middle School (MMS) since then.
Aside from working with school-aged students, Tompkins is the Area 14 Director for the Special Olympics. She coordinates the fundraising, event planning, transportation, and equipment supply for Polk, Scott, Yale, and Logan Counties. This event is not only for school age students but also adults. On May 1, 2015 this event will be held at Bearcat Stadium and Tompkins is in need of volunteers to help move the athletes from events, to help serve food, and to photograph the event. If anyone is interested in volunteering for this tremendous event, please call her at 870.784.3822.
Project Unify is another event that is close to Tompkins’ heart. “With Project Unify the general population come and support the special needs students. We have done this the last two years at Mena High School and the last year at Mena Middle School. Friday night we played in AAA State Tournament in Hot Springs and took 2nd place. This just gives the special needs students the opportunity to perform in from of their peers and for their peers to see that we do have limitations but that we can overcome and we can contribute to society. It is such a fun event,” explained Tompkins. Tompkins also works with the BEYOND program at MMS, a before and after school program that covers tutoring and enrichment to the students.
“Everything I do goes back to my students. I don’t want them sitting in a home, I want them to be productive and to be able to communicate their needs. I just have a special place in my heart for them. The people I work with are so wonderful and why I will stay at Mena until I retire. I love the school system and the support of the parents and my co-workers,” Tompkins said.