Dedication, hard work of teachers recognized

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 24, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / November 24, 1999

LAPLACE – Being a teacher these days can be a thankless job, but the St.

John the Baptist Parish School Board hopes to change all that with its new “Spotlight on Teachers” program.

Starting this month, each school will nominate a teacher to be recognized for their dedication and hard work in educating the youth of St. JohnParish. The school board will then put the spotlight on one of thesenominees . The winners will receive a free dinner for two at Bull’s CornerRestaurant and a plaque donated by the Dave Millet Insurance Agency.

The program started late this year, but there are two winners for the month of November: Dianna Cayette, a fifth-grade teacher at West St. JohnElementary, and Rhonda Keyes, a special education teacher at John L. OryElementary.

Cayette, a St. James Parish native, has been teaching in the St. JohnSchool System for 33 years and has no regrets about her choice of careers.

“I would do the same thing all over again,” Cayette says.

When she first started teaching in 1966 she was assigned to the Chapter 1 math program, which she taught in for 10 years. Since then she has beenteaching fifth-graders at West St. John Elementary.”I’ve had some really good years in St. John, ” says Cayette, “and thechildren have been my biggest joy.”In his nomination of Cayette, West St. John Elementary principal SheltonSmith wrote, “Her impartiality has enabled her to set a tone of fairness and respect that students sincerely appreciate.”Cayette concurs.

“Being fair and consistent is my secret to making the students behave,” she says. “If you show respect as much as you expect it in return, therewon’t be any problems.”Besides, Cayette doesn’t like to call on others to help her solve problems in the classroom.

“Keeping the child in the classroom is very important to me,” Cayette states, “so most of the time I try to solve the problems myself without going to the administration.” She has obviously made an impression on several generations of children.

“Some of my best moments are when students I have taught come to visit me and tell me how much they have learned.” she says with a big smile.Cayette has been married for 30 years and has three daughters, two who have graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and another who is attending Nicholls State.

Unfortunately, the next generation of students will not be able to benefit from Cayette’s unique teaching style because she will be retiring at the end of December.

She says that although she has really enjoyed her time as a teacher and taught the parents of children she is teaching today, she is ready for retirement.

She will be missed at West St. John Elementary. As Smith writes, “WestSt. John Elementary is very lucky to have such a valuable teacher. My onlyregret is that she will be retiring soon and I will have to try to find someone to fill her shoes. This will be a very difficult task.”Rhonda Keyes has been teaching for 25 years, and she says being a special education teacher is the “most rewarding job a teacher could ever have.”Keyes says she got into teaching by accident. She says she was talked intoteaching a home economics class by her sister, who was in education.

While running this class in New Orleans she came in contact with students who were suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning disabilities, and she was hooked.

“I knew immediately,” says Keyes, “that I wanted to teach kids with learning disabilities.”She taught for 15 years in the Orleans Parish School System and has been teaching in St. John for the past 10 years. She and her husband of 29 yearsare now permanent residents of St. John Parish, and she has been teachingfifth- and sixth-grade resource classes at John L. Ory since 1995.She is very happy here in St. John, she says, and she thinks the parish hasdone a great job with helping children with learning disabilities.

“St. John has been very good at giving these children the tools to reachhigh expectation,”she says.

To her, the secret to helping students with disabilities is making them believe in themselves.

“My biggest challenge is to hold high expectations of them and to hold them to these expectations.” states Keyes.Teri Noel, principal at John L. Ory Elementary, has nothing but praise forKeyes’ teaching skills.

“She has a remarkable ability to reach students who many have claimed were unreachable,” Noel says. “She has provided them with a rigorouseducation marked by high expectations for learning.”As an example of Keyes’ success, last year all of her students, with the exception of one, passed the LEAP high stakes exam.

But grades aren’t that important to Keyes.

“How a student does is not based on grades; it is based on their effort,” she says. “Grades will reflect hard effort.”She backs up her words with her own hard effort. Not only does she teachtwo grades every day, but she is also the school’s 4-H Club sponsor, works on the After School Assistance Program as a detention monitor and assists other teachers in grades 4-6 with daily recess detention.

She also helps the students with disabilities in subjects other than what she teaches.

“Right now, I’m helping them put their science projects together for a science fair,” Keyes says.

She wishes more people would understand what students with disabilities have to go through to get an education.

“I want people to respect what these children have done to get here, because each day is harder for them,” she says. ” Everybody should holdthem to high expectations.”Despite the rigors and hard work of her chosen career, Keyes has not regrets about it.

“I would do it all over again,” she says quietly. “It’s well worth it when Isee my students fitting in and doing well.”Back to Top

Back to Leisure Headlines

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

Internet services provided by NeoSoft.

Best viewed with 3.0 or higher