Gaylynn St. Pierre retiring after years with the Family Center: ‘I honestly love children and I just wanted to give back to the community.’
The praise abounds for Gaylynn St. Pierre of Destrehan, who is preparing to retire from St. Charles Parish Schools’ Luling Family Center.
“She was very engaging and always willing to learn from me to help her students,” said Shelia Southard of Luling, who worked with St. Pierre and also retired from the school system last year. “It was fabulous working with her.”
Southard said St. Pierre, who will retire effective May 25 as a literacy teacher, always went above and beyond in working with children and families, which is the role of the family centers in the parish.
“She’s made a lasting impression on her students,” she said. “She’s easy to get along with. She’s fair, caring and always wanting to grow.”
Southard further praised her being welcoming of special needs children in her class and even taught more than one grade at one time.
“Every person in her class felt respected, cared for and challenged both academically and socially,” Southard said. “She considered the whole child.”
Jackie Robert, Family Literacy liaison at Luling Elementary’s Family Center, said St. Pierre has been a pleasure to work with.
“She’s a very hard worker and it was very nice working with her,” said Robert, who has been credited with helping establish the family centers in the parish. “I thought she worked with children and families very well. She’ll just be missed.”
After 30 years with the parish’s school system, St. Pierre is ready to do something new, but she thoroughly appreciated her years of service – all at Luling Elementary.
The teacher was originally hired as a kindergarten teacher at the school in 1988, but was certified to work in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. By 1999, she proposed to the school district to teach a combination class of kindergarten and first-graders and it was approved. It lasted nearly seven years until the influx of students to the system with Hurricane Katrina required she go back to teaching kindergarten full time.
In 2001-02, St. Pierre was named the school’s Teacher of the Year and then earned the honor on the district level. Three years later, she won the Milken Educator Award, a national recognition given two teachers a year in each state.
By 2005, she became the Family Center literacy teacher, which was funded with grant money, and will retire from this position.
“I honestly love children and I just wanted to give back to the community,” St. Pierre said. “I love teaching and love being with children. This school, to me, is just amazing. It’s a school near and dear to my heart, as well as the families who come here are near to my heart.”
The Family Centers offer a different way of reaching out to the community in the classroom with 20 children seen daily, she said. They also offer play groups, which are significantly attended by the community.
“You’re really working with families from the parish, from one end to the other,” she said. “Any families can come to the family center so you have an opportunity to build relationships with so many people from the community.”
St. Pierre helps children prepare for kindergarten, a concept that emerged with the family centers under the Obama Administration. They provide workshops for parents to teach them to help their children at home, play groups and community outreach to the parents.
Over the years, those relationships with both child and parent have grown for St. Pierre, which she described as a beautiful opportunity.
“Just teaching at Luling Elementary has made me a better person,” she said. “It definitely opened my eyes to understanding the variety of families and situations, and what children do or how they come to school ready to learn every day. Every day is different and every school is different.”
She praised the teachers she worked with over the years, as well as the families that have become an incredible experience in her life. Anticipating retirement, St. Pierre said her husband calls it her reward and she sees it that way, too. To be a teacher and do it well means sacrifice for her, as well as her family, and it’s time to give back to her family.
St. Pierre also credited her parents, who were both educators, for inspiring her to enter education. She’s glad she didn’t become an accountant as she planned, but took a different path.
“It was a true blessing to choose this profession and it chose me,” she said. “There is nothing better than watching a child grow.”