Nineteen Rapides Parish School District teachers who have been recognized as this year’s educators of the year have something in common besides the classroom. They all earned their credentials at Louisiana Christian University.
“I celebrate along with the community these amazing educators’ hard work, investment, and dedication to the children of Rapides Parish,” said Dr. Christy Warren, interim dean School of Education. “They continue to carry on the strong tradition of teacher training at Louisiana Christian University School of Education. They are living out the university’s mission through their calling by making a difference in the lives of our local children and their families.”
LCU alumni teachers of the year include:
Whitney Williams, Acadian Elementary 2024 New Teacher of the Year
Kirstin Richard Willis, Plainview High School 2024 New Teacher of the Year
Michelle Hay, Alma Redwine Elementary 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year (district-wide)
Penny Luttrull, Hayden R. Lawrence Elementary 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Mary Johnson, Glenmore High 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Tousha Henton, Horseshoe Elementary 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Robyn Ladner, J. I. Barron Elementary 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Kristin Ray, Phoenix Magnet Elementary 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Mindy Belgard, Buckeye High 2024 Middle School Teacher of the Year
Jessica Smith, Rapides Academy 2024 New Middle School Teacher of the Year
Jordan Holt Freeman, Scott M. Brame Middle, 2024 New Middle School Teacher of the Year
Jamie Henry, Alexandria Middle Magnet, 2024 Middle School Teacher of the Year
Virginia Laborde, Scott M. Brame Middle, 2024 Middle School Teacher of the Year
Paris Babino, Alexandria Senior High, 2024 New High School Teacher of the Year
Angela Brodnax, Buckeye High, 2024 High School Teacher of the Year
Tracy Stokes, Glenmora High, 2024 High School Teacher of the Year
John Howe, Oak Hill High, 2024 High School Teacher of the Year
Wendy Brabham, Plainview High, 2024 High School Teacher of the Year (overall winner)
Julie Gills, Phoenix Magnet Elementary, 2024 Assistant Principal of the Year
Glenmora High School Teacher of the Year Tracy Stokes has been teaching for seven years. She currently teaches chemistry, physical science and emergency medical responder classes.
She said her classroom management skills she learned going through LCU’s program are top-notch and very effective in dealing with many different types of students.
“LCU prepared me by exposing me to different teaching strategies and showing me ways to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of individual students,” Stokes said. “LCU also helped me to be prepared for teaching challenging students with unique or special needs.”
Stokes said her faith informs her teaching, and it helps her care for and approach her students with compassion, empathy, patience and understanding.
Michelle Hay, Alma Redwine Elementary’s Teacher of the Year for the school and the district, has been an educator for 16 years. She teaches English language arts (ELA) and social studies.
Hay said the personal attention given through LCU’s program really benefitted her.
“LCU prepared me for my teaching career by giving me a different perspective,” she said. “For example, the professors were able to model how to use one piece of literature or book to address multiple standards. I was then able to look at books differently and analyze the content rather than just read the content. I find this very useful now when planning my lessons. I enjoy reading to my students, which they not only enjoy but I am also able to use the story to teach and/or review standards.”
She said she is humbled and honored by being chosen as the district teacher of the year. This is the second time she has been recognized by her school as teacher of the year.
“Being teacher of the year makes me so proud of myself,” Hay said. “However, honestly, I really don’t think about it a lot. I go into work, do my job to the best of my ability and hopefully reach a child in a way that impacts their life in a positive way.”
A more recent LCU graduate, Whitney Williams, was recognized as the Acadian Elementary New Teacher of the Year. Like Hay, she teaches ELA and social studies.
She credits the tough love of Dr. Christy Warren and the entire faculty and staff of the School of Education with her achievement.
“My professors believed in me whenever it was hard to believe in myself, and they gave me a push to not give up on teaching,” Williams said. “It’s amazing how Dr. Christy Warren’s encouragement during my first visit at LCU led me to this moment of being a great educator.”
Seasoned teacher Penny Nugent Luttrull was recognized as H.R. Lawrence’s Teacher of the Year. Luttrull is completing her 32nd year of teaching special education.
While the professors have all changed since Luttrull first entered her classes at LCU in 1986, the same inspiration and encouragement remains.
“I felt very well prepared for the teaching profession,” Luttrull said. “Every faculty member was fully invested in student success but also knew the importance of nurturing and developing the whole person.”
She teaches students who have a myriad of special challenges, and she said her faith really drives her teaching.
“As a special education teacher, I have worked with many students over the years who have come to school with numerous emotional problems, and I strive each day to see the students as Jesus sees them, loving them unconditionally,” Luttrull said. “I love the ‘aha’ moments in my classroom after the students’ have had productive struggle on a particular skill. The joy and sense of pride the students exude when they have mastered a skill still excites me. My prayer is that my students leave me knowing they were loved and valued.”
Brame Middle School Teacher of the Year Virginia Cope Laborde has been teaching ever since she graduated LCU in 2014. She teaches 6th grade ELA. The best thing about the program for her was the professional development opportunities available in the summer, including behavior management techniques, Kagan strategies, and other useful information.
“Additionally, I was prepared with knowledge of the new Common Core Standards before those were in place, which was a bonus to my first employer,” Laborde said. “LCU’s program allows you to complete the program while still being able to teach in a classroom setting. You can still be a parent, a teacher, a spouse, and go to school to fulfill your certification.”
Victory Lindo-Lemons, assistant professor of education, said she is inspired to see the abundance of educators of the year in Rapides Parish who have come through the program at Louisiana Christian University.
“This is a testament to the quality education and training that Louisiana Christian University provides for its students,” Lindo-Lemons said. “The dedication and hard work of the teachers who have graduated from our university is evident. As someone who has also graduated from Louisiana Christian University and received teacher of the year in the public school system, I personally attest to the value of the education and preparation that I received at the university. I am proud to be part of this community and I believe that Louisiana Christian University plays a vital role in developing the next generation of teachers in the state of Louisiana.”
For more information about an undergraduate education degree, alternative certification, or graduate programs—Master of Arts in Teacher or Master of Education, please visit the LCU website. For information about financial aid available for these programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org. TEACH grants are available. Financial aid can also be reached at 318-487-7386.