Congratulations to the winners of the inaugural New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award! The following outstanding public school teachers were selected as winners from a city-wide pool of over 80 nominees:

Tara Coleman, Middle School Special Education Teacher at Esperanza Charter School

Susan Harvey, 1st Grade Teacher at Mary McLeod Bethune Literature & Technology Elementary School

Jamie Irish, 9th-12th Grade Math Teacher at KIPP Renaissance High School

Jim Kline, 12th Grade Seminar in Innovation and Change Teacher at Sci Academy

Troy Lawson, 3rd Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher at Crocker College Prep

Martha Mason, 4th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Martin Behrman Charter School

Elizabeth Sepanik, Kindergarten Teacher at Lusher Charter School

Ford Stevens, 6th Grade Math Teacher at KIPP Central City Academy

School leaders nominated teachers based on their impact on student achievement, commitment to ongoing learning to hone their craft, strength of relationships with students, and effect on their school community. Nominees were asked to fill out a questionnaire on why they teach in New Orleans and submit a video of them teaching.

We were blown away by what we learned about these educators through the selection process.

Among them, we have a teacher who has been serving New Orleans students for over three decades, driven by a steadfast belief that every child can learn and grow and a calling to help them do just that. She has received three Teacher of the Year awards and was honored as a “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.”

We have a teacher who regularly coordinates outreach and service opportunities for her young students. She created a national project called “Love Drops,” in which kids leave painted rocks with encouraging messages for others to find and be inspired by, to show her students that “even a small act of kindness can change the world.”

We have a teacher whose 3rd grade students were doing complex dissections of pig hearts and sheep brains when we came to observe his classroom. After months of studying both organs and their functions, he wanted his students to have the chance to see the parts they had learned about in real specimens.

We have a teacher who, when teaching 3rd grade math last year, “didn’t just decrease the achievement gap, but closed it,” according to his principal. His kids were the highest performing open-enrollment math students in the city and were competitive with some of the highest-performing schools in the state.

And, we have a teacher who created Project Citizen, in which students research a problem in the New Orleans community and recommend policy solutions to the city council. Students go head to head with state senators and city council members, defending proposed policies like expanding homeless services for LGBTQ youth in the city, implementing after-care programs for the formerly incarcerated, and strengthening sex education in New Orleans.

These are just a few of the ways that our city’s educators—new and veteran, out of state and native New Orleanian—are demonstrating excellence in serving their students and our community. Witnessing the incredible dedication, talent, and love all of the nominees put into their teaching highlighted the phenomenal work happening in classrooms across New Orleans every day.

The impact that teachers have on their students, their school communities, and the city as a whole cannot be overstated. We hope to continue to use this space to showcase the great teachers, classrooms, and programs that are driving education forward in New Orleans.

Please join us in thanking educators across our city, and in congratulating the winners of the New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award.


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