The Oscars of (Louisiana) Education

Wow! I remember this day last year for me. I was headed to the Cecil J. Picard Gala to be recognized as a teacher finalists for the state of Louisiana. I had no idea what that night held for me. Proud was understatement.

First, I walked in completely impressed at the elegance of the room. The attention to detail was quite evident. Once again Dream Teachers, went above and beyond and the room looked as if it was the Oscars for Educators. Dream+Teachers+2016

As the evening progressed, the moment arrived to name the top 3 finalists for their respective grade bands and then the overall State Teacher of the Year. I was beyond nervous. It was my prayer that may the best person for the role shine through, even if it wasn’t me. I actually had already decided on who I thought was going to win the title and when that person’s name was called for a grade level award my heart dropped. I thought…wait…could it be me?  No…there’s just no way. I’m in a very large room surrounded by dynamic educators from all corners of the state. How could I possibly be chosen over them?

The moment arrives. My stomach is in my throat and I’m experiencing heart palpitations. I even thought to myself, how am I going to stand and walk onto the stage if they call my name? Both John Pastorek and Joni Lacy’s

vsnpoices slowly start to say. “The 2017 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year is….(insert the longest pause of my life where seconds felt like hours………… JONI SMITH! Wait, that’s me!!! Oh my goodness!!!! OH MY GOODNESS!!!

I still get butterflies recalling this moment. I was overjoyed and so proud at the same time. I was recalling all of the people that have fed into me, helping me polish my craft. I walked on that stage, completely in shock, but so proud to be noticed for my hard work. I was ready to start a fire in education and bring my young scientists to the forefront of each Edpolicy conversation.

My only regret was wishing that my parent’s could have been there. I know that my mother would not have stopped yelling for me. She may have been kicked out for her level of excessive celebration.  However, they were both with me in spirit.

As I finished my speech and walked off that stage with a tight grip on the keys to the Mercedes, I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for His grace and guidance in my life. I am soft-hearted and strong-headed and I haven’t always had it easy. But the one thing I am certain of is my purpose. I am a light to my students and they are my fuel. I have found my calling in teaching and I plan to continue to elevate the profession I love most!


Tonight, as we honor the new 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, let me express my respect for you and my thankfulness to have educators just like yourself in the great state of Louisiana. You, along with the other educator finalists, have made us all so proud of the work that you are doing and the dynamic impact that have made. You are valued beyond measure and I would like to thank you for your commitment to excellence!


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