ASK, SEEK, KNOCK

In Matthew 7:7-8 of the Bible it states, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.…” 

These two verses have never been so evident in my life until now. You see, on August 18th I made a brief video asking anyone who would listen to hear my call for compassion. I was seeking for all community members that were able to donate $10 to the Assess the Need campaign so that our students could receive the supplies needed to return to school. I shared the video with all my friends, family and colleagues on social media hoping and praying to get a decent response. I began knocking on big businesses doors (and sending large amounts of emails) asking for any and all donations that they would be willing to give. With the combined efforts of myself, Jeff Taylor (Livingston Parish Tax Assessor), Livingston Parish Public Schools and Joni Lacy (Louisiana State Department of Education),  we have been able to get several local businesses and business owners on board with our efforts. I would like to say THANK YOU to all donors! Pictured below are just a few of the local businesses that have graciously shown their value in education. Thank you Target for your large donation of various school supplies. Thank you Baton Rouge Area Foundation for your incredible monetary donation to help meet the needs of our students. Thank you Neil Sweeney for donating an amazing amount of children’s books to restock the shelves of the school libraries that were damaged in the flood.

Who knew that in less than 2 weeks, YOU would help us raise approximately $68,000!!! Yes, you read that number correctly. YOU have been the backbone of our relief efforts. Due to the vast amount of the $10, $20 and $30 contributions from community members like yourself, we are able to provide school supplies, uniforms and library books to students in high need. Remember when I said every little bit helps, well there you go!

As we all continue to rebuild, may the Lord bless you for your generosity! Let’s continue to build these funds to meet the needs of students in ALL affected parishes. #everystudentcounts  #LouisianaStrong

 

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Flooded with love, a Louisiana Teacher’s cry for help

It’s been 12 days since I’ve seen my students. No, we are not on vacation or a holiday break, we have been impacted by a major flood. Many of our schools are flooded along with 75% of the families here in Livingston parish. A large amount of our teachers have lost both their homes and their classrooms. I have been self-diagnosed with what one would call “survivor’s guilt”. My two homes (house and classroom) did not flood. I almost feel unfortunate to be fortunate. I have made a relentless effort to spend the last 12 days helping south Louisiana with it’s efforts to rebuild. It has been so difficult just to witness all the pain and suffering that my family, neighbors, colleagues, and community are experiencing, I can’t imagine the type of anguish that weighs heavy on them.  I’m naturally a soft-hearted person to those in distress. I just want to take their pain away. All of it.

To say I miss my students is an understatement. I need to see them. I need to tell them so much. I want to tell them just how much they were missed. How lonely my classroom is without them. How incredible our community is to come together when devastation strikes. How much of an opportunity their generation has to make a difference. How I was lucky enough to volunteer along side many of their parents and other teachers. How our school districts will gladly jump through hoops just to meet their needs. How much they are supported by people from all over the nation. How other schools have stepped up to foster the needs of the schools in our parish. How much they have been in our thoughts and prayers. How much we value them and their education. How PROUD I am to be a teacher in Albany, Louisiana, their teacher!

As a voice for all students in our great state, I am asking for two things. First, I am asking for all community members such as doctors, lawyers, educators, bankers, police officers, city and state officials, all stakeholders, this CALL FOR COMPASSION knows no limits, to give back to the community that we love most. We desperately need kindred hearts to facilitate our efforts in meeting our students needs. Sadly, many of our students have lost their book sacks and school supplies to the strong current of the flood waters. It is our job to lend a hand when people are suffering. It’s our job to step up and reach out to any and everyone that will listen. My second request is for any school system that was not been affected by the flood waters, will you be so kind as to ‘adopt a school’. I am looking for schools that would be willing to raise funds to help get our schools back on their feet. Some examples would include a free dress day, homeroom donation competitions, supply drive, etc. Please do not hesitate to email me with any questions joni.smith@lpsb.org.

I believe the best way to teach students to be good members of society is to lead by example. Will you help lead?

If so, please join me in these efforts to help the students of southeast Louisiana by visiting assesstheneed.com and giving a love offering of $10. Help us flood our students with love!  Assess the Need is an NON-PROFIT organization and  ALL proceeds are dispersed to those students in highest need. Your donation is 100% transferable to a student in need of school supplies.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Joni Smith

Seeing with our Hearts and not our Eyes

I am typing this post with such a heavy heart. I hate to see any type of suffering and to see and feel the devastation that my community is enduring is quite overwhelming.  Eight parishes, yes EIGHT parishes in south Louisiana have been drastically affected by an unpredictable flood. These flood waters entered approximately 75% of homes in Livingston Parish alone. Schools have been closed and many are now working to repair and rebuild.

Today, I was in Denham Springs (where 90% of the homes were flooded) helping my Aunt gut out her home and  I found myself overtaken with emotion as I saw countless families returning to their homes to asses the water damage. Traffic was backed up and I was able to witness some of their reactions.  Faces filled with distraught, confusion, pain and several in tears as they gazed upon all their damaged belongings that they had worked so hard for. Children upset to see that their homes were in such a disarray. Definitely a sight that would break the heart of the ‘manliest’ of men.

On the other hand, in the last several days I have also witnessed quite an incredible sight. I have seen people from all walks of life join together to help their community get back on their feet. Never considering skin color or age or gender or sexuality to be a factor. In fact, we saw each other either as people in need of help or people that wanted to help. It’s as if our vision has been corrected. I am so incredibly proud to be part of a community that rises above the storm. As a whole, we are compassionate people and we have a heart to serve others.

This is an image of a few of my students making cupcakes to serve to the flood victims in Albany. #proudteacherstudents

To all victims of the flood, you are in our hearts and prayers! We are LOUISIANA STRONG!

Kindly,

Joni Smith

The Purpose Driven Teacher

When I was named as a finalist for Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, I was able to hear Mrs. Kelly Stomps, the 2016 Teacher of the Year, speak on all the wonderful things she got to do and changes she was able to make for the students of Louisiana. As I listened to all those incredible things, I couldn’t help but wander how she was able to do all of it AND take care of the needs of her students. So I asked, and she responded saying that it was very difficult but you had to manage your time wisely and try to get a really good substitute to be consistent with your kids when you are out. I agreed and have taken her advice.

This school year is going to be tough but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I always give 100% at what I do and I plan to give my best work to my students and foster the needs of all students in our great state. This Tuesday, I was honored to be announced as the 2017 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). It was a ‘passing of the torch’ event where Kelly Stomps passed on the title and the responsibilities, along with great advice, might I add.

Our state is blessed with so many extraordinary educators so I am well aware of how special this title truly is. I have a purpose and I plan to give my BEST work!

So, let me tell you a little bit about my plans. I am currently working with my district on new teacher trainings and fostering their needs throughout the school year. I have several domains to my platform and I am focused on being as effective as possible when reaching all students across the state. So, with that in mind, I have created a task force that consist of the eight other Teacher of the Year finalists.
My platform is to refocus on at-risk students by meeting them at where they are and facilitating their learning through positive connections. There are several domains that I see a need for improvement as well. I plan to encourage parental involvement, engage students as community leaders, build positive classroom climates, rekindle a passion in burnt-out teachers, implement effective formative assessment and feed back into education to improve both teacher and student morale.
My philosophy of teaching has many parallels to the new Every Student Succeeds Act that was recently passed and the LDOE is rewriting science standards this year which I will play a key role in. Everything is falling into place for a small town science teacher to make a big change in education.
If you are a person of prayer, please continue to keep me in your prayers.
Thanks kindly,
Joni Smith
(Pictured below are Dr. Lurie Thomason, Joni Smith, and Kelly Stomps)

 

Ready or not, here they come!

The students in Livingston Parish returned to school on Thursday, August 4th. Teachers in surrounding parishes are getting their classrooms ready to welcome students this coming week. Parents are finishing up their school supply shopping and students are having ‘schoolmares’ of their first day back.

I always enjoy the first day of school. As students enter my classroom, I greet them at the door with a big smile and an energetic “good morning”! They smile back and enter in with curiosity. I’m sure they are thinking I might be a little crazy to have so much energy in the morning, but really it’s just the coffee kicking in. What they don’t know is that I have been eagerly waiting to meet them. My classroom has been so quiet and lonely without them there.

I have so many plans for my students this school year but don’t worry parents and/ or teachers I didn’t forget about how important you are. Parents, you play such a vital role in the lives of our students. You are their solid foundation. They are your whole world. I believe for any student to be successful in a classroom setting, there must be a positive support system behind them. Students need compassion and encouragement both at home and at school. That’s why it’s time to JOIN FORCES! It’s time for parents and teachers to be on the same team working together to help the student succeed. Let’s change the stereotype! Let’s be involved! Our students deserve the best. Let’s be the best!  Capture

Teachers, I don’t need to remind you how important your jobs are. We all know. Yes, there may be a few bad apples in our profession but that should not interfere with what drives us to be better. I’m sorry if you have not been shown the trust and respect that you deserve but don’t lose faith. You are so great and greatly appreciated! Our job can be tough. Yes, we all have bad days. We work with kids. I think that’s expected. But we have to remember that we were once them. We have to feed back into them and meet them at their level of needs as they embark on a journey of learning rigorous skills. We have to love them and encourage them on tough days. We have to establish positive relationships with them and their families. We have to facilitate each student to reach for success and overcome obstacles. Work hard for them each day and in return they will work hard for you.

Capture

This post was focused on all parents and teachers. Let’s mend the bond that was somehow broken. Let’s empower education! Together we can do better, we can be better, so that our students/children can succeed!