An educational awakening
By: ELIZABETH WEST
Albert Einstein once said that “it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Proving this art is still vital to the success of children are the three Evangeline Parish educators who were recently named the parish’s District Teachers of the Year (TOY).
The TOY process is one that according to TOY Coordinator for the Evangeline Parish School District, Grace Sibley, “honors excellence in classroom education and provides a forum to showcase three of our many outstanding educators in the district. Our three honorees deliberately ignite excitement among students, through innovative, engaging, student-led educational activities. Evangeline Parish School Board is indeed proud to have them represent us.”
The best way these teachers have found to ignite a desire in their students to do well, is to get creative in the classroom.
For Yvette Jagneaux, who is the middle school District TOY, this involves dancing in math class to make sure her students know and understand which way to move the decimal when multiplying and dividing.
When it comes to Heather Demourelle, who is the elementary TOY, she gets kids excited by letting them roll the dice, which then tells the students which word they must use to make a sentence.
For the district’s high school TOY, Lacye Hamilton-Soileau, awakening a students passion for learning means dressing up like historical figures and having her students take part in an escape room challenge where they are tasked with finding the missing Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.
This out of the box style of teaching is what now puts these three ladies on track to possibly become the State Teachers of the Year.
The honor of just being named the district’s TOY, according to Soileau, is one that she “holds near and dear to her heart.”
Soileau, who teaches social studies at Ville Platte High School, said, “Being District Teacher of the Year is just an honor and a privilege. I am giving 500 percent to become the State Teacher of the Year, because winning at the district level has made me want to be even better at my job.”
For Jagneaux, who teaches fifth grade math and science at VPHS, this honor is one that will lead her where she wants to go, by winning state.
Jagneaux said, “My goal is to win state. That’s where I hope this experience takes me, because this is my passion. Teaching is what I love, and my students are my life along with my husband and my own children.”
Demourelle, who teaches first and second grade students at James Stephens Montessori, has found herself “humbled” by this honor.
“I was beyond stunned and humbled when I learned that I had won District Teacher of the Year,” said Demourelle. “I was so nervous during my interview and saw so many other amazing teachers there. I never expected to be chosen. I was honestly a little confused when my principal called to congratulate me.”
For Demourelle though, as “grateful” as she says she is to receive this honor, the best part about teaching has to do with the kids.
Demourelle said, “The best part about being a teacher is being able to witness the sheer pride that my students have when they get it. That gives me an overwhelming feeling of joy when my young students make those connections and have those ‘A-ha’ moments. It is truly a rewarding career. Not to mention, being able to act silly and sing and dance at work everyday is pretty fun too.”
The next step in this journey for these three local teachers will consist of competing at the state level to become the State Teachers of the Year.
Jagneaux, Soileau, and Demourelle will submit their state-level applications, which will include a video that shows them actually teaching in their classrooms, by January 17, 2018.
The 48 State Semi-finalists will then be chosen in April of 2018. Following those selections, the top 18 teachers will be chosen as finalists by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Finally, in July of next year, the 2018 State winners will be announced.