Jeff Davis Parish holds first Signing Day for Future Educators

Published 9:07 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

Twelve Jeff Davis Parish high school seniors made commitments Friday affirming their dedication to becoming educators during the district’s inaugural Signing Day for Future Educators.

Assistant School Superintendent Ben Oustalet said by encouraging students to pursue careers in education, the parish hopes to cultivate a talented pool of future educators who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of their students and their communities.

“Teachers have the power to affect children’s lives,” Oustalet said. “Over 24 years things have changed, but the influence of kids has not. There’s a lot of things beyond our control, but we can all show up everyday as educators and influence a child to become better.”

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The school district partnered with area universities to host the signing event to highlight the commitment of the college-bound high school seniors to pursue careers in education.

Those who earn their teaching certificate and return to teach in the parish for their first three years will be offered a signing bonus, Oustalet said.

“If I see you at a table in four years, or one of our district staff does, and you sit down and commit to coming back to Jeff Davis Parish for the first three years there is going to be a signing bonus on the table,” he said. “We are committed to cultivating students in Jeff Davis Parish.”

Those signing with McNeese State University were Sarah Monic, Jennings High; Sadie Achan, Hailey Langley, Torrie Burrell and Tara Abshire, all of Welsh High School; Allie Himel, Mya Waguespack and Lainee Landry, all of Lacassine High; Brendan Trahan, Hathaway High and Leah Price  Lake Arthur High.

Layla Oliver, Jennings High and Ryleigh Shuff of Elton High committed to Louisiana State University with Mallorie Canady, Jennings High, committing to Louisiana State University at Eunice.

Mallory Canady, a senior at Jennings High School, has always had a passion and spark for education giving back to future generations.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Canady said.  “I hope I can make my students learn with the same passion and know they have a place in the world.”

Sadie Achan, a senior at Welsh High School, wants to see students expand their knowledge beyond a computer.

“I chose education because students now do so much of their research using Google and not actually learning,” Achan said. “I want to be able to teach so that future students are able to learn more in the classroom.”

Layla Oliver, a senior at Jennings High School, has wanted to be an educator since sixth grade. She first thought of pursuing a career as a band teacher, but changed it to agriculture after being inspired by her own ag teacher after his former ag teacher died.

“I saw the hurt and how upset he was and realized they had had a close relationship and that had meant something to him,” she said. “I realized then that I wanted to be that someone who could make a difference in students’ lives.”

Jeff Davis Parish Junior High Teacher of the Year Maria Miller, a math teacher at Jennings High School, spoke to the students about her own experience as an educator.

“I’ve been an educator for 19-and-a-half years, but I didn’t always want to be a teacher,” Miller said. “My passion in high school was to be a registered nurse. So, I went to college for five years, and was in my first semester of clinicians, but that didn’t quite turn out so my advisor suggested I change my major to education. So that’s the route I took and I’ve never looked back. You never know what life has in store for you.”

Miller began her teaching career in Calcasieu Parish and transferred back to Jeff Davis Parish.

“This has been the most rewarding experience as an educator,” she continued. “I’ve seen many student successes throughout my teaching experience, just seeing their face when they have met a goal or just passed a test they knew was challenging. They just want to hear, ‘I’m proud of you’  by someone they respect. This makes teaching worthwhile. Education isn’t just about teaching students math, it’s also about molding the young people to be successful adults. I get to be part of their journey and watch them grow. It’s rewarding to see them excel in school and in life and to know that I was a part of that.”

Jeff Davis Parish High School Teacher of the Year Macy Istre, a math teacher at Lake Arthur High School, has always wanted to be a teacher. She has been teaching high school math for seven years.

“I knew when I was five years old I wanted to be a teacher,” Istre said. “That was always the plan. However, I didn’t always plan to come back to Jeff Davis Parish. My first year out of college, I spent a year teaching somewhere else and at the end of the year when I had the opportunity to come back, I jumped on it and went straight back to the school I graduated from. When I returned here I was able to teach alongside several of my former teachers and the support, encouragement and guidance that comes with that is something you don’t find anywhere else, only from the people that helped you grow into the teacher that you can and will be.”

Istre told the students there are many teachers they can call on for help and encouragement, including herself.

Jeff Davis Parish Elementary Teacher of the Year Devin May, an ELA and social studies teacher at Elton Elementary School, encouraged the students to think of Jeff Davis Parish when considering student teaching and future employment. May, who is in tenth year of teaching, said it has been rewarding to teach so many smart, kind and accepting students and to work with some of the best teachers over the years.