Angelle Bourgeois always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
Bourgeois recalled helping her own teachers whenever she could as far back as the first grade, be it decorating a classroom or pitching in on special projects.
“I’ve always enjoyed school. I think my teachers saw it in me before I saw it in myself,” Bourgeois said. “I kind of embraced it and it really ignited my passion for this.”
As young as she was, her instincts were pretty sharp as it turns out. Bourgeois, Allemands Elementary School Assistant Principal and former teacher at Norco Elementary School, was announced Friday (Sept. 4) as the 2021 Elementary School Teacher of the Year by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Bourgeois was one of nine finalists for the honor, which was announced at the annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards ceremony. The event was held virtually out of precaution for COVID-19.
“You work hard every day to make a difference, and to have that hard work and service recognized, it’s so exciting. It’s a tremendous honor,” Bourgeois said. “I feel like it’s such a platform that allows us to serve our students and represent the thousands of hard-working and dedicated teachers of Louisiana.”
That she was selected among so many of her peers in the state hasn’t quite hit her yet.
“No, honestly, that hasn’t sunk in,” Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois teaches English at Allemands Elementary and serves as the school’s assistant principal. This is her 10th year as an educator, the majority of that spent at Norco Elementary, where she was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2019. She taught students K-5 in the school’s Gifted program.
As she works with her students, Bourgeois aims to help them find their voice and take steps toward filling their potential academically, socially and emotionally. The aim is not just for students to internalize information, but to understand why that knowledge helps them and how they can apply it in their lives beyond the classroom.
“I try to set high expectations for every student,” Bourgeois said. “With that, you develop relationships where there’s mutual respect, but you also empower students to take ownership of their work. I want them to understand the relevance of what they’re learning, how it will impact them and how they can use the knowledge and skills they learn to achieve their goals.
“I want them to understand their potential and purpose, and along with that the potential impact they can have in their lives to help others.”
Seeing a lesson “click” for a student who grasps those lessons taught is among the most rewarding parts of the job, Bourgeois said.
As it has been for all teachers, very unique challenges have naturally materialized as the education world copes with COVID-19. In many ways, educators, administrators and students alike are learning an entirely new system of doing things.
“This year has been quite different,” Bourgeois said. “I just try to approach each new challenge as an opportunity to catalyze positive change, and reimagine and improve the services we provide to our students.”
Bourgeois ultimately decided to begin a transition from working strictly in the classroom into administration, noting she felt it gave her the chance to reach more students.
“I’m a still teacher at heart,” Bourgeois said. “But I knew it was a great opportunity to have a broader impact supporting students and also teachers within our school and our district.”