A passion for teaching

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

RESERVE, La. — St. John the Baptist Parish School Superintendent Dr. Courtney P. Millet recently announced the winners of the 2008 Teacher of the Year awards.

The Elementary Teacher of the Year is Sharon Brown of LaPlace Elementary; the Middle School Teacher of the Year is Amanda Poole of East St. John Elementary; and the High School Teacher of the Year is Shannon Smith of West St. John High School.  

All three teachers will advance to the state’s regional competition in June, with hopes of advancing to the state finals later this year.  The annual Teacher of the Year competition is sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education.

The district winners were selected from a group of teachers who were nominated by their respective schools. All nominees were presented at the May 2008 board meeting.

The Elementary Teacher of the Year nominees include Brown, Keisha Carter-Cain of Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet, Viola Carter of West St. John Elementary, Kathryn Fone of East St. John Elementary, Jean George of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, Shirley Keller of John L. Ory Magnet and Sherri Sosa of Fifth Ward Elementary.

The Middle School Teacher of the Year nominees included Poole, Helane Chevis of West St. John Elementary, Sandra Fernandez of LaPlace Elementary, Gwenesta Fenroy of Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet, Agnes Hollins of John L. Ory Magnet and Carolyn Rowe of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.

The High School Teacher of the Years nominees included Smith and Janine Ward of East St. John High.

Brown told school board members that she didn’t pursue the idea of teaching until she was 35 years old.  “I wasn’t happy and felt as if there was no purpose in what I was doing, other than earning a fantastic salary,” she said.  “I felt that I needed to make a difference and impact someone’s life.”

Brown said she is glad she switched careers, and she often reflects upon her past experiences with teachers to help direct her in her thought process as an educator.  She says one of her greatest accomplishments to date was to be named a mentor teacher.  In that capacity, she works with new teachers to strengthen and improve their teaching practices.

Poole is a Teach for America teacher who is in her third year at a math teacher.  She said she decided to work with youth after completing an internship in Strasbourg, France, at the Council of Europe in education and drug prevention.  She applied was the Teach for America program and was immediately accepted.

At East St. John Elementary, Poole uses the Accelerated Math program as springboard for students to begin to love math again. “Through simple competitions, visible tracking charts and recognition of all students (regardless of level) who mastered objectives, I was able to create an environment in which math was no longer a hug obstacle for students to overcome,” Poole said.

Shannon Smith said her love for math and children influenced her to become a high school teacher.  She said her philosophy of education is not just to reward students to try harder, “but to leave a lasting positive affect to help students stand on their own two feet,” Smith said.

Smith said her “Aha! moment” as a teacher came when a former student told here that everything she taught him was the same as what he learned in college.  “That made me feel as if I did indeed accomplish my goals of proving and planting a math foundation in that student,” she said.