Ariel St. Romain discovered her love for teaching in a surprising way.
“I graduated from Nicholls State University through the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and a minor in Business,” she said. “My time cooking was spent in fine-dining kitchens, with my last job being at NOLA Restaurant in the French Quarter. I mostly worked the lunch shift as the Wood Oven Chef, as this shift was easier to take care of my young daughter at home. It wasn’t until volunteering in my daughter Allie’s kindergarten classroom on my off days that I found my love of teaching.”
St. Romain said that after several weeks of assisting with small group instruction, she quickly decided to go back to school for education. She received her Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching two years later through the alternative certification program at The University of New Orleans. This will be her ninth year at Mimosa Park Elementary – the school she attended as child growing up in Luling.
“I have been an educator for 8 and a half years,” she said. “Eight of my years have been spent teaching first grade. Half a year was spent as an ERT at New Sarpy Elementary in second grade.”
She said that her favorite thing about teaching first grade is watching how much the students grow from August to May.
“When they enter my classroom in August, they know their letters, letter sounds and some sight words,” St. Romain said. “But they are still learning how those letters work together to create words. They know basic addition and subtraction and can draw simple pictures to represent a problem. By the end of May, the transformation in reading and mathematics is astounding. Seeing them grow from slowly saying each letter sound when reading to becoming fluent, expressive and automatic independent readers is one of the most rewarding experiences to witness.”
St. Romain added that by May her students’ mathematical processes have grown, and not only can they solve complex addition and subtraction stories with missing parts, but they can explain their thinking.
“This growth is the best part about being a first grade teacher,” St. Romain said. “I strive to make an impact on my students’ lives. My ultimate hope is that my students remember the kindness and compassion I showed them as their first-grade teacher. If you think about it, teachers spend seven and a half hours a day with their students. That is more time than most parents spend with their children on a typical school day.”
St. Romain said doesn’t think of her students as just students.
“In conversation, I often refer to them as my kids. We are a first-grade family and I love each and every one of them,” she said. “In my teaching practices, I work hard to build rapport and get to know my students. I treat them fairly, as equals, and with compassion. I get silly at times, and I know they enjoy the humor in our days. What I would like most for them to remember, is my love and compassion for each of them.”