As a child she ‘taught’ her stuffed animals, now she’s the New Teacher of the Year

Skyla Thompson and her fellow teachers dressed up as ghosts for Halloween.

As a child, Skyla Thompson used to make name tags for her stuffed animals and then “teach” them in her living room. Now, Thompson has been named St. Charles Parish’s New Teacher of the Year.

“I have wanted to become a teacher my entire life. I really have never thought about being anything else,” Thompson said. “It has always been my dream to become an educator like the ones I had when I was younger. Since then, every job I’ve ever had has been working with children and it has been so rewarding.”

Lakewood Elementary teacher Skyla Thompson stands with her class and Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling after being named the district’s New Teacher of the Year.

The New Teacher of the Year award is designed to honor outstanding teachers with less than one year of experience. Thompson was chosen from among all first-year teachers in the district and will compete in the state competition.

Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling surprised Thompson with the news while she was teaching her students at Lakewood Elementary. Thompson said it’s a moment she will remember forever.

“When I saw my principal open my classroom door and Dr. Oertling walked in with a giant bouquet of roses I was so excited and grateful for what I knew was about to happen,” she said. “My face was priceless and my students were so excited at that moment.”

Thompson currently teaches 4th grade math and ELA in an inclusion setting. She said her first year teaching has been full of surprises.

“I think the biggest surprise to me would be the friendships I have developed with my partner teachers,” she said. “I have three partner teachers and they have made this year so amazing. Getting to spend time with them every day, share ideas with each other, and just enjoy our time has been great.”

Thompson’s most memorable event so far took place during Halloween.

“We dressed up as ghosts, using white sheets, and spent all day having a blast. We ran down the hallways, took lots of pictures, and even ‘snuck’ into the principal’s office for some photos,” she said. “Seeing the faces of our students, full of excitement and laughter, was definitely special for all of us. Definitely one of my most memorable moments that has made me enjoy teaching.”

Thompson said her first year as a teacher has been everything she expected and so much more. 

“This year, although it’s not over, has been a significant time of learning and growth for me,” she said. “Seeking support from mentors, collaborating with colleagues, and staying open to continuous improvement have been a huge factor in making this year so special.”

Skyla Thompson said her biggest surprise has been the friendships she’s developed with her partner teachers.

Thompsons enjoys the connection she gets to make with her students and how building that positive relationship helps them know that she’s someone they can trust. She also loves seeing their growth during the year.

“When you see a student finally master a skill and grasp a concept it is so exciting and so rewarding,” she said.

And, as one might expect, teaching also brings with it many challenges for a first-year teacher.

“One challenge I’ve had would be adapting and differentiating instruction so it can meet the needs of all the students. This is very challenging to do because every student is different and they learn in a variety of ways,” she said. “Getting to work alongside my partners to create ideas and ways to meet all these student’s needs is something I really enjoy about my job. 

“Teaching has so many challenges and successes and that is something I love so much about it.”

Thompson, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and mild/moderate disabilities from the University of New Orleans, will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies for the upcoming Teacher of the Year banquet in March. She’s a little nervous.

“I am not the biggest fan of speaking in front of a large crowd so my nerves will definitely be there,” she said. “Aside from being nervous though I am very excited to get to attend the Teacher of the Year banquet and be the Mistress of Ceremonies. It will definitely be a learning experience for me.”