Making the Grade

Reading, writing … and a passion for teaching takes J.B. Martin educator to the top

J.B. Martin Middle School teacher Stacy Neighbors has a lot to be proud about. After all, the eighth grade language arts teacher is a finalist for “Louisiana Middle School Teacher of the Year.”

Neighbors was first nominated by her fellow colleagues at J.B. Martin, then moved on to the district-level competition and won “Middle School Teacher of the Year” for her district, among three other teachers. She then was selected as the “Regional Middle School Teacher of the Year” for District 1.

“I was honored to be named as teacher of the year at my middle school,” said Neighbors. “I work with a lot of incredible teachers, so it meant a lot to be selected.”

And to top off her excitement, Neighbors says that she was even more shocked to learn that she moved on past the district and regional levels.

“When my principal told me that I had won regional, I didn’t believe her,” she said. “We literally had to open up my e-mail together so that she could prove the good news to me. I was elated. It is such an honor to be recognized at the school level, much less at the district or regional level.”

Being a middle school teacher, Neighbors’ job is one chalk full of rewards and challenges.

“The most rewarding part of my job are the daily, hallway conversations with students and making small differences in their lives,” she said. “However, the most challenging part is breaking through some of the tough exteriors of students so that they can see me as an ally and someone they can trust.

“Once I do that, I know the student will be successful because they will rise to meet my high expectations, knowing that I believe in them and a mutual trust is present.”

Neighbors received a bachelor of arts degree in English education in 2003 from the University of Southern Mississippi, followed by a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of New Orleans this year.

“I am living my childhood dream each day that I walk into my classroom,” said Neighbors. “I have always wanted to impact lives as my teachers have done for me over the years.”

Although it’s early on in Neighbor’s career, impacting lives is something she’s already doing.

“For a student to tell me on the last day of school that I have changed their life as a presenter and communicator marks accomplishment,” she said. “And for a freshman who barely made it out of the eighth grade to comment that I would be proud of him now because of his hard work ethic makes me realize that students know how deeply I care for them.”

Neighbors regards teaching as the most rewarding profession and says that anyone wanting to be a teacher can change lives.

“It is an honor to be a teacher and touch so many lives,” she said. “If anyone is interested in education as a career, they must be committed to living out fresh enthusiasm daily.

“Our positive presence, knowledge and energy speak volumes to our students. Our classrooms may be the only safe place the students have all day, therefore, we must not only inundate them with the skills necessary during that grade level, we must serve as a daily model of good practices.”


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