Combre teachers’ devotion honored

Marlisa Harding

Combre-Fondel Elementary School educators Eunice Campbell, a master teacher, and Ashlyn Simien, a second-grade teacher, were each awarded $1,000 from Black Educators Rock — a national, non-profit devoted to furthering the academic success of minority students. The teachers were surprised with the award by Marcus Jackson, Calcasieu Parish School Board R3 Zone director, on Friday.

Jackson said the teachers were selected in a drawing, but their merit matches that of all staff members at R3 Zone schools who have returned to the classroom with enthusiasm despite the trying circumstances of Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

“In spite of all we’ve been through here in Southwest Louisiana, with the positive attitude of the principals, which is trickling down to the teachers, you cannot tell,” Jackson said. “Our students haven’t missed a beat and that’s because it starts top down.”

Focusing on the emotional and mental health of teachers and students returning from mandatory evacuation was one of Jackson’s primary focuses, he said, a focus that is also mirrored in the Black Educator Rock’s mission.

“Being in education is rough and hard,” said Melissa Chester, Black Educators Rock chief executive officer. “We’re helping the educators themselves, their motivation. (We’re) people who identify with them, support them and know exactly what they’re going through. They’re not on an island.”

Jackson said additional support for CPSB teachers is especially important right now as many teachers are still displaced, some even commuting from Houston to get to work. Strengthening teachers and helping them maintain a positive attitude, especially during current circumstances, is key to student success, Baruti K. Kafele, principal and Black Educators Rock member, said.

“When the attitude is positive, student achievement is possible and the teacher has to have that same drive,” he said.

Simien said Friday’s surprise donation was a refreshing reminder of the importance of self-care as an educator.

“I’m always, every day just trying to pour and pour. It just became routine. It just became habit. I never take the time to fill my own cup. So, I feel like this has launched me forward and I’m finally getting my cup a little filled for myself.”

The stress of COVID-19 and the compounded effects of two hurricanes left Campbell reeling emotionally and financially, she said. Friday’s donation was a welcomed reprieve.

“Having to look at the destruction of our city and the loss of our personal items, our homes, our vehicles, whatever, it just was like a weight that didn’t seem as if it would ever be lifted,” she said. “But it just boggles my mind how God just comes in, not when you want Him, as my grandmother used to say, but right on time. So yeah, it’s (the donation) going to help fill the gap.”

Pamela Bell, Combre-Fondel principal, said Campbell and Simien are certainly deserving of the donation. Despite extreme difficulty and devastation, Bell said the two remained committed to the call to teach.

“Because this is what they do. They put aside that they didn’t have anywhere to live and they had to travel the distance to still come to work because there was no place in Lake Charles. To see their love for the kids and put aside their own personal need is what we look for in educators.”Combre-Fondel Elementary School educators Ashlyn Simien and Eunice Campbell, from left, were recognized Friday by the schoool’s principal, Pamela Bell, and Marcus Jackson, Calcasieu Parish School Board R3 Zone director.

Special to the American Press

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