Editor and Contributing Writer
Featured Photograph: Northeast Elementary Teachers Torie Vidrine and Lacey Richard accept certificates of appreciation from Angela Cassimere during Tuesday’s Opelousas Noon Rotary Club annual Teacher Appreciation Day.(Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)
They describe their jobs as a passion or a calling, not an occupation.
That’s the way the Opelousas-area teachers recognized Tuesday by the noon Rotary Club feel about what they do every day as they talked about shaping the lives of those that enter their classrooms.Some said they knew all along that they would become teachers. Others like Starlet Handy of Opelousas Middle School didn’t initially consider managing classrooms until at one point in their lives, they experienced epiphanies and decided that teaching would become their lifetime craft.
Several of the teachers who received gifts and certificates during the presentations are experiencing their first years in classrooms.
Others like Elizabeth Tullier of Opelousas Catholic, have taught for several decades. Tullier, listed on the OCS website as an eighth grade teacher, has worked in education for 47 years. Accompanying Tullier for OCS was Charley O’Cherry.”We wanted to feature two teachers from each of the Opelousas schools,” said Angela Cassimere, curriculum director for the St. Landry Parish School District. “What we wanted to do when we asked each school to send two teachers to the program was to pair a veteran with a teacher who has not been in the classroom for that many years.”
One of the most unique of the teacher pairings highlighted by the Rotarians is the Northeast Elementary teaching team of Lacey Richard and Torie Vidrine. Both siblings teach second grade and play significant roles at Northeast, according to Cassimere.
Torie Vidrine told the Rotarians that she never intended to become a teacher, but she changed here mind when she realized that sister Lacey was doing “phenomenal things” in the classroom.
Unlike her sister it was obvious at an early age Lacey Richard said, that she wanted to teach. No one ever disagreed, Richard added.Handy said that she intended to become a stewardess. However airline officials thought that she was too short for work as a flight attendant, Handy told the Rotarians.”Then one day I was sitting in church in Seattle and I thought teaching is what I should do,” Handy added.
Handy was accompanied by first-year teacher Marisa Noel, who said she was a psychology major. Noel intends to eventually become a counselor.Park Vista Elementary teacher Alexis Standberry said she has followed some of her relatives into teaching.
Standberry said she spent 14 years in Acadia Parish and has been in St. Landry for the past three school sessions. Amy Nelson, who attended the event with Standberry, has spent her 28-year teaching career at Park Vista.
Tamieka Zachery and Havana Broussard represented Creswell Middle School. Zachery is Creswell’s 2022 Teacher of The Year and has a number of responsibilities. Like Zachary, Broussard serves on the School Improvement Team.
Keshab Bhatteri and Theresa Adams were the featured Opelousas High representatives. Bhatteri is from Nepal, while Adams has been at Opelousas for over two decades and teaches foreign languages and oversees the school recycling program.
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins admitted he too was inspired to become an educator. Jenkins, who graduated from Opelousas High, said school band instructor Joseph Nabors gave him the opportunity to become a leader in band. “You think about that one teacher who had an impact on our lives. Mine happened to be Mr. Nabors, who gave me a chance to lead,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins complimented the teachers who attended the event.”The last two and a half years have been difficult for our educators. They’ve gone through tough times. We had a cyber attack and COVID took its toll on all of us. These teachers went through all of that and have continued to make an impact on our children,” said Jenkins.