Connections created best part of being in school system for Natalie Orphey-Johnson

Published 7:57 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

Lake Charles native Natalie Orphey-Johnson, 46, hails her mother as her greatest inspiration.

As an educator with more than 30 years of experience, Orphey-Johnson’s mother served as a positive example. “She taught with class and grace, and held herself to high standards,” she said. “I don’t believe I could ever compare to her, however I do believe I have made her proud.”

Orphey-Johnson graduated from LaGrange Senior High School in 1994 before attending McNeese State University, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s in education.

While earning her undergraduate degree, Orphey-Johnson began to earn educational experience by subbing throughout the Calcasieu Parish school system.

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After graduating, she was offered a position as a fifth grade teacher at Ralph Wilson Elementary School. Over the last 15 years, she has also taught at Fairview Elementary and Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy.

She now serves as Dean of Students at SWLCA, where she facilitates the growth and development of her students while also creating enriching learning environments.

The connections that have been created – both with her peers and with her students – during her time as an educator are her favorite aspect of the job.

“All students can be successful and learn, just in different ways,” is the educator’s philosophy that Orphey-Johnson has developed.

This philosophy applies to herself as well, as her students often teach her valuable lessons, such as patience, empathy and problem-solving. “In the years that I’ve been in education, I think the most that I’ve learned from students is how to handle situations with them,” she explained. “They teach me how to reflect on my practices and how to care for them.”

Over the years, she has also learned that teachers wear many different hats, and that it takes passion, effort and adaptability to be an efficient educator. “We not only teach academics, but we teach students skills such as social skills, conflict resolution, communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking and more.”

The diverse education that SWLCA offers creates productive citizens, she believes.“This allows them to eventually grow into productive and upstanding citizens of their communities.”

She also believes that those that become teachers are answering a call, and that people who are destined to become educators have a responsibility to “always have an open mindset and never stop growing your skill set.”