Local educator takes aim at students’ vocabularies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE- “My parents had us out there picking the butter beans and slopping the hogs,” 2004 citizen of the year Betty Clement said addressing a hallway full of fourth grade students at East St. John elementary school. “We could have succumbed-you are going to need the dictionary for that word-to the environment we lived in, but we didn’t. We ended up doing more.”

Clement grew up poor. She is a poster child for hard times, and although her family was poor, she and her five siblings all went to school.

“I come from a family that had limited resources,” Clement said. “As a student I always had limited school supplies. There was always a need for supplies.”

Clement, most well known for founding the River Parishes Tools for School initiative that provides school supplies for needy children, is a school system retiree who currently serves as a facilitator with the East St. John High School Options III Pre-GED program. She is now sponsoring the Dictionary Project at East St. John Elementary School in LaPlace.

The venture is an international project aimed at improving children’s language skills by providing third graders with their own dictionary. Clement gave dictionaries to fourth graders last week in preparation for the LEAP tests they will be taking later this year. She said she would return in a month to give dictionaries to the third grade.

Each student received a pencil box, labeled with their name, containing a labeled dictionary, pencils, pens and a sharpener. In addition, each student received a writing tablet.

Her goal is for each student to alphabetize the pages of the writing tablet and enter every word they do not know with its meaning and part of speech. She says this way they will have a personal register of words they can carry with them that will hopefully transfer over into their vocabulary.

In a letter to parents, she encouraged them to assist their children by reinforcing those skills taught in the classroom and by conducting their own lessons. She also made a commitment to return to the school at a later date to check each student’s progress.

She dedicated the event to her parents, who were always strong advocates of education.

“My parents told me as I was growing up, with an education you can get anywhere you want to go. This is America. Get an education,” Clement said.

Clement sponsored the program herself, the price of each box and tablet coming out of her own pocket. Her hope is that in the future the people who receive her gifts or see her giving them will give back.

“My Pre-GED students helped put this together,” Clement said. “In addition to my projects I’m hoping to model philanthropy to my students.”