Teachers of the Year will represent St. Charles schools for statewide title

March 28, 2014 at 10:59 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Teachers of the Year Sarah Stohlman, JulieAnna Smith and Megan Harms.
Teachers of the Year Sarah Stohlman, JulieAnna Smith and Megan Harms.
Three St. Charles Parish Public Schools teachers were recently named the top educators in their divisions by the school district.

Allemands Elementary teacher Sarah Stohlman was selected elementary school teacher of the year, the middle school teacher of the year award went to JulieAnna Smith, of Harry Hurst Middle School, and the high school teacher of the year is Hahnville High School talented theatre teacher Megan Harms. All three will go on to represent the school system in the statewide teacher of the year competition.

Stohlman graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisiana–Lafayette in 2000 and has since received a master’s degree from Baylor University in 2002 and a master’s plus 30 from the University of Southern California in 2010.

She began teaching at Des Allemands in 2011 where she is currently a kindergarten teacher.

In addition to in class activities Stohlman is a member of the Louisiana Reading Association, a Louisiana Teacher Leader, a member of the Westbank Literacy Adult Learning Committee, the School Climate Committee and participates in the “Getting Ready for Kindergarten” summer program. This is Stohlman’s third consecutive year being nominated for the teacher of the year award.

Prior to working in public education Stohlman had a career in academics as a college professor and was involved in research focusing on Central American immigrants in Los Angeles and Guatemala. Despite being published in academic journals and winning national awards, Stohlman said she felt like she was missing out on something.

“In spite of all of the accolades I received for my academic work, there was something missing. I was simply not fulfilled,” she wrote in her teacher of the year application.

“The work I was doing was more about ascending academic hierarchies than making a positive contribution to the world. I knew that I needed to find an outlet for contributing to society as opposed to simply researching it. When I discovered teaching, and teaching kindergarten in particular, I knew my purpose had been found and I have never once looked back.”

Stohlman said her time in the college classroom has encouraged her to expect more out of her students.

“While many people are convinced that kindergartners cannot handle rigor, I strive to prove them wrong. I push my learners to justify their answers, to draw upon information learned in books and other credible sources, and to think beyond the surface. I constantly push them to think harder, communicate more effectively, and challenge their own thinking and that of their classmates,” she said.

Smith is a seventh grade reading teacher at Harry Hurst Middle School. She has been a teacher for the past eight years and has been with St. Charles Parish Public Schools since 2009.

Smith graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2001 and later attended William Carey University where she received a second bachelor’s degree in education in 2003. She is currently enrolled at Walden University and is studying for a master’s degree in psychology.

In addition to her classroom responsibilities she is a member of the International Reading Association, Louisiana Reading Association and the St. Charles Parish Reading Council. Over her career with St. Charles Parish Public Schools Smith has held numerous committee positions.

Awards she has received include the Renaissance Learning Model Reading Classroom and the William Carey University Outstanding Leadership Award.

After at first pursuing a career in nursing, Smith changed her occupation outlook to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“I knew it would take dedication, responsibility, perseverance, and commitment. I knew I would need to go far beyond the call of duty, doing more than what was expected, for that is what my mother had modeled for years in her teaching career,” she wrote in her teacher of the year application.

Smith said her biggest tool as an educator is empathy.

“We, as teachers, desire that our students collaborate and effectively communicate with one another, so if we want our students to appreciate what we are communicating, if we want our students to respond to and work cooperatively with us, then we must consider their perspectives and how they perceive us. I attempt to use empathy to guide all aspects of my teaching, influencing not only what I say, but how I say things, and how I ask the kinds of questions that will nurture empathy within my students,” she said.

While Smith said some teachers may view their profession as a job, she said she entered into the field to make difference in the lives of students and the community as a whole.

“I have been given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes, both in the classroom and in the community. I am truly fortunate to be a teacher in St. Charles Parish,” she said.

Harms has been a teacher for the past decade and has spent her entire career as an educator working for St. Charles Parish Public Schools. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2002 with bachelor’s degree in zoology with a minor in theatre.

In addition to her role in the classroom, Harms is a member of the Educational Theatre Association and the National Association of Gifted Children, where she was selected as a presenter at their 60th annual convention in November 2013.

Throughout her career, Harms has continued her education through participation in various professional development workshops and has been honored by several organizations.

In her teacher of the year application Harms said her professional goal is simple.

“I want there to be more beauty in the world, and I like to think that I am responsible for creating more beauty in the world. I think that is my calling. I know that it is my passion,” she said.

After graduating from Hahnville High School in 1998, Harms at first embarked on a path she thought would end with her becoming a medical doctor. However, she was well into her student career when she realized she wanted to be in theatre. After graduation she worked as an actress for a few years.

“I toured with a regional theatre production that performed mostly at schools while also teaching classes for the theatre company’s Professional Training Academy. While working odd day jobs, I taught acting and musical theatre at a dance studio,” she said.

Within a few years Harms got her teaching credentials so she could teach theatre and has been at Hahnville High School ever since. She said her success as a teacher is in helping her students come to know themselves in their formative years.  

“My accomplishments are in my students themselves, in the people they have become that I believe I helped to shape. Through theatre, they learn to step into someone else’s shoes - quite literally. They learn to portray the depth and range of human emotion, and they become aware of perspectives and struggles and histories that are unlike their own. Connections are formed between personal experiences and those of the characters, and my students become more empathetic, more intuitive, and quite simply, more human,” Harms said.

This year’s teacher of the year ceremony theme was the “A Night in Paris.” Attendees were treated to French-inspired cuisine and entertainment.

“Guests were greeted by mimes, a French-speaking artist, flower carts, and the Eiffel Tower. In addition, umbrellas appeared to be floating throughout the room,” Regina McMillan, public information coordinator of special programs, said.

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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Just one more: Hahnville a win away from bringing home a state championship
Just one more: Hahnville a win away from bringing home a state championship
Hahnville will attempt to secure its seventh state championship, and its first since 2003, when it takes the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday night to take on Zachary in the Class 5A championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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