Andrea DelPapa Bertrand: Witnessing student growth takes the cake

Published 7:32 am Thursday, May 25, 2023

December will mark 30 years of teaching for Andrea DelPapa Bertrand, 53.

“The time has passed so quickly, and I am hoping to remain for a few more years.”

Though originally from Casper, Wo., she moved to Sulphur at the end of her first grade year and considers herself a Cajun through and through.

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“Even though I am not a Louisiana native, I have been here long enough that I identify as a Cajun!”

She graduated from Sulphur High School in 1988 and earned her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from McNeese State University in 1992. She went back to McNeese and earned her Master of Education in 2008.

Becoming an educator wasn’t her initial goal. “I was going to become a child psychologist. After many conversations with my advisor, I changed my major.”

After graduation, she experienced another shift.

“My original plan was to teach elementary grades, but God led me to middle school,” she explained. With her degree, she is certified to teach students in first through eighth grade.

“Although I believe I would have been very happy with the younger grades, I truly love middle schoolers — attitudes and all!”

Sans a handful of extended substitute positions early in her career — R.W. Vincent Elementary, D.S. Perkins Elementary and S.P. Arnett Middle School — Bertrand’s teaching career has been split between LeBlanc and Maplewood Middle Schools.

The first five years of her career were spent teaching math, before switching to English language arts.

Currently, she is at Maplewood teaching eighth grade ELA. She is also the Response to Intervention (RtI) Coordinator, in which she coordinates RtI student information, maintains RtI records and communicates with the RtI coordinator at the Calcasieu Parish School Board.

She also plays an active role in school-wide decision making as a member of the Maplewood Middle Leadership Team.

Bertrand loves every aspect of being an educator. However, witnessing student growth takes the cake. “There is so much that adults can learn from our youth if we engage them in conversation,” she explained. “I do love witnessing them grow intellectually, but more so I enjoy seeing their disequilibrium change to confidence.”

In her classroom, no question asked is a bad question and every student is worthwhile.

“My philosophy is that every question has merit, and every child is valuable,” she said. “We all have different strengths and weaknesses.”

Her lessons are centered around collaborative thinking and empathetic listening. “As long as we push forward together in a respectful manner, we can learn from each other while appreciating other perspectives.”

Through the exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge that take place in her classroom, Bertrand has learned that she is not the only one teaching. “My students help remind me that the sharing of knowledge does not rest solely on my shoulders. They learn more from each other than they ever will from me alone.”

The key being an effective teacher is to respect the students, Bertrand said. “Remember that children want to be respected and accepted just as much as we do as the adults in the classroom,” she said. “They will bend over backwards and jump through hoops if they know that you believe in them.”

She believes it’s also important to build relationships and try to have fun. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s OK to have some lighthearted moments! It makes even the hard days manageable.

“Work hard but enjoy the journey.”