Inspiring the young: Nora Pierre

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Deborah Corrao / L’Observateur / May 26, 1999

“All children are wonderful,” says Nora Pierre, retiring principal of Fifth Ward Elementary School in Reserve. “All children have the same basicneeds – to be encouraged and nurtured.”That philosophy has been the heart of soul of Pierre’s 33-year career in education, which she began as a classroom teacher at Wallace Rosenwald Elementary School in her hometown.

Fresh out of school with a bachelor’s degree from Southern University, she looked to Herbert Cambre, principal at Wallace Rosenwald, for inspiration.

“A lot of what I’ve learned is from seeds he planted” Pierre says. “Hebelieves you have to plan and be aware of everything that happens on the campus.”Cambre, who retired in 1988 but returned to education four years ago, now serves as disciplinarian at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science MagnetSchool. He says Pierre was one of the best classroom teachers he hasworked with.

“She is an inspiration to young people,” Cambre says. “She took her job toheart and has done an outstanding job. She seeks to do the best she can ineverything she encounters.”Pierre’s success as a classroom teacher paved the way for her rise up the career ladder in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. She has servedas a parishwide career education counselor, assistant principal, principal, supervising principal and magnet school facilitator.

In 1992, while serving as principal of the old John L. Ory ElementarySchool, she was selected Regional Principal of the Year for 12 parishes in our region.

Pierre, 55, has gained a reputation for taking on challenges that might overwhelm others and has viewed each of those challenges as an opportunity to grow and become enriched.

The veteran educator was appointed to the principalship at Fifth Ward after that school had been identified as one of the two lowest performing schools in the parish. She began the 1998-99 school year by looking forways to address concerns identified by a committee of the Louisiana Department of Education.

Under her guidance, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Fifth Ward showed marked improvement this year on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a national standardized test.

“The faculty at Fifth Ward is second to none, and the students are absolutely wonderful,” Pierre says. “We’ve grown together as a facultyand seen growth on the part of the students.”Pierre says she has also noticed a different attitude towards education in her students.

“Every school has its own strengths and needs,” she says. “Fifth Ward isdifferent from any other school. But now students who were not concernedabout education are saying they want to be on the honor roll.”Last week Nora Pierre was recognized by the Honor Roll Roundup Committee she helped establish 12 years ago as a way to reward children who have been on the honor roll for at least half of the school year.

With the help of business and industry who pick up the $18,000 tab for the successful annual event, 2,700 students from private, parochial and public schools in St. John Parish will be recognized for their achievements onJune 5 with a day of carnival rides, games and all the food they can eat.

“It’s a way of congratulating them on a job well done,” says Pierre.

“Schools have put too much emphasis on athletics. The Honor Roll Roundupis a way of showing the children that academics are more important.”Pierre says she has had her share of disappointments in her lengthy career. One disappointment, she says, is people who work in the field ofeducation who are more focused on their own agendas than on putting children first.

“Another disappointment I have is the lack of parental involvement and control in their children’s educations,” she says. “It crosses all ethnic andeconomic boundaries.”Pierre says parents must learn how to parent and how to set boundaries for their children.

“If parents have genuine love for their children and are truly involved, they would know how to make better decisions,” she says. “We need toraise our children with belief in themselves, a belief that other people are basically good and a belief in a power greater than ourselves.”Despite the disappointments and challenges along the way, Pierre says there is nothing she would have done differently in her career.

“The Master knows what he is doing,” she affirms. “Each appointment hashelped strengthen me and helped me to nurture children. I want to continueto use the gifts God has given me to nurture more children.”Pierre says she wants to remain open to the Lord’s call as she moves into her retirement years. She now serves as a religion teacher and eucharisticminister at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edgard, where she liveswith her husband, Warren.

She also plans to stay involved with a group called CARITAS that awards scholarships to very needy children. Last year she served as an educationalconsultant for the organization on a trip to Guatemala.

Pierre says she is a voracious reader and plans to spend some of her leisure time in that pursuit as well as do some traveling. She also plans tospend more time with her five children and two grandchildren.

And, as she prepares to move on to other challenges, Pierre reflects on the joy she has found in the little things along the way in her career.

“I consider education a privilege,” she says. “It’s the best professionthere is. My happiest moments are the daily rewards – the little hugs, thesilly gifts, the lightbulb that comes on in students on a day-to day basis.”

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