What do desk wiping, a reduction in Fitbit steps and the eye of Joe Burrow say about this year in Middle School? While teaching Middle School is always an adventure, in a pandemic year things are certainly a little more unconventional. Despite the challenges facing faculty, they rise to the occasion daily with grace and calm, and students and families appreciate them for it. So, what is it really like being a teacher in 2020/2021?
“I’m grateful to be here,” says eighth grade teacher Kristina St. George. “Even with all of the things that are hard, it’s much easier to be here.” Walk into St. George’s classroom and initially everything looks normal. The desks are all in rows facing the front in anticipation of another school day. Look closer and you see a bottle of sanitizer, paper towels and taped lines on the carpet outlining the teacher’s workspace. With a reluctant smile, St. George shares that this is the first time the desks in her room have actually been in straight rows because she typically likes to cluster desks into group workspaces. Adjusting the space is just one of the changes St. George and her students have had to make.
This year, teachers spray student desks with sanitizer between each class meeting, which is roughly three or four times a day. That commitment to stopping the spread can be time consuming, but teachers have embraced it as a new part of their school day. Teachers are also working within a designated “teacher zone” in their classroom rather than circulating among students. For teachers like St. George, who traditionally spend a class period walking among desks and discussing the day’s topic, this is a definite detour from their normal operations.
In speaking with teachers, you soon discover that in addition to gratitude for the opportunity to be on campus there is also a common longing for a normal school year. Teachers miss easy interactions with students and lively group discussions and projects. Eighth grade teacher Becky Milligan says group projects have been a challenge. St. George points out that students can no longer share materials or move around, making it difficult to effectively do group work. However, in true Knight fashion, Episcopal teachers are finding ways to continue providing engaging learning experiences for students.
“This has challenged us to think more creatively,” says St. George. In geography, St. George has used the new QUEST Center in Foster Hall to take students to the Amazon rainforest. Students filmed themselves discussing what they’ve learned about this jungle landscape in the center’s Digital Media Lab. To address a common concern with daily face covering requirements, Milligan created the “Masked Emotions” lesson. “It’s hard to read facial expressions,” she says. Earlier this year, as students were learning classroom technology and getting to know each other, Milligan asked them to take snapshots of themselves wearing a mask. Students were asked to express different emotions while wearing the face covering and then share them with others. Such a simple assignment reveals true creativity and the genuine desire teachers have to get to know their students.
Another way in which teachers are getting to know their students is through fun, non-academic activities. St. George and her team of Student Council members have worked hard this year to create excitement for the Middle School student body. St. George says the goal is “to make school a little more fun and still COVID safe.” One such activity was “Name that Celebrity.” Student Council members provided a cropped celebrity image to Middle School Division Head Mark Engstrom to include in the weekly announcements. Students were then asked to identify a celebrity based solely on the image. When a familiar eye and eyebrow appeared many LSU fans readily recognized former QB Joe Burrow. The eye of the tiger wasn’t the only fun activity. Engstrom also challenged students to a “Name that Logo” contest. In addition, Student Council members filmed themselves quizzing their teachers on how much the teachers know about popular social media contributors. These little activities can have a big impact for students. “They get into this kind of stuff,” says St. George. She says it breaks up the day a little bit, and students seem to truly enjoy it.
Teachers and students are doing a tremendous job of finding joy in school life. “I think I’ve grown,” says St. George. “I like a clear plan of action. I’ve learned, ok, well maybe my plan isn’t going to work out because of unforeseen circumstances due to the pandemic.” While the days can be mentally exhausting and first-day-of-school-tiring every day, St. George and her counterparts are thankful to be at Episcopal. “The school has done a really good job of keeping teachers safe,” she says. She points to the efforts to move larger classes into larger spaces to ensure adequate social distancing. She says teachers also appreciate that the administrative team has set up breaks for teachers throughout the day. St. George says teachers are also supporting each other along the way. “We’re finding humor in everyday life,” she says. “We’re finding something that was good each day.”
One day soon, Middle School will return to the more traditional Middle School struggles of preparing for a big test, trying out for the lead part in a play and deciding who to ask to the first dance. Until then, teachers are providing a lesson from which we can all learn – perseverance, determination, love for what you do and who you serve and the ability to find the positive.
We are thankful for our Episcopal teachers. Please join us in sharing your appreciation in the comments section below.
Prayer for Teachers
O Lord, who came into the world to bear witness to the truth and who said that the good and faithful teacher should be greatly accounted of in your kingdom: Send, we pray, your blessing upon all who are engaged in the work of education. Give them clearness of vision and freshness of thought, and enable them to train the hearts and minds of the children so that they may fill their appointed places in the work of this life, and be ready for service in the life to come. Amen.
From Church Publishing’s, School Chapel: Services and Prayers
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You never know where a walk down the street or an open, honest conversation will lead you. For Coach Tommy Rhea these simple life experiences have helped him discover connection, purpose and love. Through small, consistent acts of kindness and humanity, Coach Rhea does his best to make the world a better place with each person he encounters, and over the course of his career he has encountered many.
Coach Rhea has been a teacher and coach for 46 years, with 27 of those spent as an Episcopal Knight. He has taught four different subjects in five different classrooms and coached hundreds of student athletes. Walk across campus with Coach Rhea and you immediately notice that students are eager to greet him and share the latest news. “Tommy helps students to realize their full potential because he teaches them that they are loved,” says Middle School Division Head Mark Engstrom. “By loving them, Tommy teaches them to love themselves and that confidence plays out in students trying out for new sports, plays, or joining a club they might not have otherwise considered.”
“This man gave up his life for this. He is my hero.”
Coach Rhea’s science classroom is well known for its enthusiastic display of artifacts. As you enter the room, you immediately notice an array of notes, cards, insect collections, microscopes and tree samples. The room reflects what you would expect to find in a space designed for discovery and exploration. A prominent position on a wall near the front is reserved for a large, framed image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initially, the image may seem out of place until you speak with Coach Rhea about the significance of the man he calls his hero. With true emotion, Coach Rhea discusses how Dr. King dedicated his life to making the world a better place for everyone and how in his own life he strives to do the same. “The more I learn about him the more I appreciate that he was willing to give so much,” he says.
Fueled by that message of compassion and connection, Coach Rhea approaches his role as a teacher with love and joy, letting his actions speak for themselves. As a seventh grade teacher, he readily volunteers to spend a week with eighth graders at Mo Ranch every year. While there, he takes night duty, staying up with students until everyone is sleeping. “The legend among our student body is that ‘Coach Rhea sleeps standing up’ since what they saw each night at Mo Ranch was someone so dedicated to making sure they get their rest that he wouldn’t sit down or leave until they were asleep,” says Engstrom. Coach Rhea also shows his commitment to student athletes. While he no longer coaches as many sports as he once did, he can still be found on the sidelines supporting the team. During a traditional school year, he can be counted on to take Middle School cafeteria duty where he stands, observing and ready to help. Even Coach Rhea’s carpentry hobby is used to help others. “He also listens to what other people need and will spend his weekend in his woodshop to bring in some of his handiwork for others,” says Engstrom. “For example, Tommy has built covers for our lab sinks, bookshelves, etc., for his fellow teachers.”
An Unlikely Episcopal Educator
Even after a tremendous career in the classroom, Coach Rhea says he is an unlikely Episcopal educator. He grew up in the northeast Louisiana town of Lake Providence, just a few miles south of the Arkansas border very near the Mississippi River. At that time, the population of Lake Providence was quite small, segregated and impoverished. Coach Rhea wasn’t a scholar and actually considers himself “a late bloomer” when it comes to academics. “I didn’t take school very seriously,” he says, although he later went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from LSU. However, as a young boy in the ‘60’s, Coach Rhea’s priorities were sports and spending time with friends.
Later, when his high school integrated, Coach Rhea says some of his classmates transferred to an academy, but he remained. He took physical education with three Black students, and they quickly became genuine friends. Coach Rhea remembers getting ICEEs with his friends when the frozen drinks first came out. “It was a hit,” he recalls with a smile. While getting ICEEs, Coach Rhea befriended another Black teenager named Henry, who worked at the store. Coach Rhea and Henry became very close, having long discussions about life, sports and their future plans. During this time and in this place, such close connections were unconventional, and Coach Rhea remembers others questioning his choices. “I developed friendships with kids that I wasn’t supposed to develop friendships with,” he says. These relationships were meaningful for Coach Rhea and even today he speaks fondly of those times. Then, in April 1968 something occurred that would change Coach Rhea’s life forever.
Coach Rhea was on a trip home from a band festival when he heard about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It scared me,” he says. Equally as profound was how he felt about the reactions of those around him. Coach Rhea knew that some considered Dr. King to be an agitator and initially he went along with that. However, on the day that Dr. King died, everything changed. “I made a deal with myself that I’m not going to be like that.” Coach Rhea found the inspiration in Dr. King’s message that would define him for decades.
Coach Rhea, the unlikely educator, has done so much for so many. His ability to notice, listen and comfort makes Coach Rhea one of the most loved teachers at Episcopal. The quiet, authentic way in which he approaches others with support and compassion has inspired the Episcopal community for decades. An unintended result of how he has lived his life is that through giving to others, he has also received. A chance meeting outside of LSU’s Hodges Hall led to a lasting relationship with Episcopal Cross Country Coach Claney Duplechin. Through that relationship, Coach Rhea helped the Episcopal coaches with track meets, scouted for the football team and coached girls basketball and volleyball. When an employment opportunity arose, there was no question in the minds of Episcopal administrators that Coach Rhea was the man for the job. He began as a rotating teacher without his own classroom. One teacher he shared space with was Lorren Magee. Lorren and Coach Rhea became close friends and that friendship blossomed into something more. The two were married two years later. This year, they are celebrating 25 years together.
Among the inspiration in his classroom, Coach Rhea displays the friendship wall that originally decorated the walls of Lorren’s room. The colorful, bright drawings and words represent what students value in a friend. Over the course of his tenure at Episcopal, Coach Rhea’s Middle School students have added to those first messages. Also among them are notes students have drafted showing how they value Coach Rhea.
“You were the best teacher and I miss you.”
“Thank you, Coach Rhea for being the best teacher ever.”
“Dear Coach Rhea, Thank you so much for being the greatest teacher ever. I miss you so much.”
With his hero as his guide, Coach Rhea has lived a life in service to others and there is no question that he is ready to do more. We thank him for sharing his kindness with us.
Share a message of appreciation with Coach Rhea in the comments section below.
Each year, Episcopal administrators partner with Patty and Carl Newton to recognize three outstanding faculty members for their contributions to student education. The Newtons established the Newton Distinguished Faculty Award because of their belief that excellent teachers make a tremendous difference in the lives of students. Congratulations to the 2020-2021 award winners.
Heidi Hebert – Lower School
Tommy Rhea – Middle School
Paige Gagliano – Upper School
The Newtons are grateful for the positive impact that the teachers at Episcopal had on their two children. Through the award, they grant each recipient a stipend in support of their continued professional development. Recipients are able to choose a professional development opportunity of their choice with approval by the Dean of Academics.
While Hebert may have been surprised to receive such recognition, those around her were not surprised to see her honored. “Heidi is an incredible gift to Episcopal,” says Lower School Division Head Beth Gardner. “What stands out to me most, though, is her sincere love for our students. She knows them all by name, knows their quirks and their talents, knows what they care about and what makes them uncomfortable. And in all the right ways, Heidi supports students and grows their confidence.”
There is a tremendous sense of appreciation for educators at Episcopal. “It is always a privilege to recognize the efforts of our outstanding faculty,” says Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley. “This year, the Newton Awards are an especially meaningful opportunity to celebrate these dedicated teachers who have gone above and beyond to ensure that learning and student growth continue. We are grateful to them for everything they have done for our students, families and each other.”
Join us in congratulating this year’s Newton Distinguished Award recipients. Share a comment with them below.
Sports have been a part of Episcopal head girls basketball coach and 2009 graduate Taylor Mims Wharton’s life for as long as she can remember. Her first athletic outing was playing tee-ball at three years old and even now she still remembers the experience and her teammates. The following year, at the age of four, Taylor dribbled a basketball for the first time as part of an organized team and she hit the pitch as a soccer player. With a dad for a coach, competing just seemed natural for young Taylor. As an only child, she also appreciated the camaraderie that existed with her teammates as they carpooled to practices and games and swapped stories about life in the same way sisters might do. Sports was a family affair from the very beginning, and it remains so to this day.
In seventh grade, Taylor earned a spot on the Episcopal varsity girls basketball team. In a basketball-themed scrapbook created by her proud mom, Kim, there are photos of Taylor in her varsity Episcopal uniform making her first appearance as an athlete on the LSU PMAC court. She was only 12 years old. In 2004 as a Middle School student, Taylor had already lettered in basketball, earning an Athletic Award signed by then head basketball coach Travis Bourgeois. Taylor’s success on the court continued with newspaper write-ups touting her performances. Then, on December 1st of her eighth grade year something quite unexpected occurred. During drills, Taylor pivoted in practice and heard a strange sound in her knee. After limping to the sideline and realizing that her knee didn’t feel right, Taylor made a visit to the team trainer. That sound turned out to be a torn ACL and meniscus. The injury required surgery and took Taylor out of the game she loved for eight long months. However, it gave her something even more meaningful and important than basketball.
“Basketball seemed to be everything but when it was taken away, I found my identity.”
As Taylor underwent surgery to repair her knee, her teammates and coaches rallied around her. Her parents, who have always been her number one fans, were by her side the entire way as she worked to strengthen her leg and get back to the game. As she spent time in bed resting her knee, Taylor devoted time to reading the Bible. She and her parents were faithful churchgoers, but during this downtime Taylor said she really “got it.” “I found my identity in Christ,” she says. “Basketball is something I love but it’s not who I am. I’m a Christian, that’s who I am.” For Taylor, an injury that hurt and took her out of the game actually brought her tremendous joy - the joy of discovering what she is made of and who she truly is. It is that joy and sense of tremendous faith that leads her in all of life’s adventures.
Those adventures included successfully competing in volleyball and softball in addition to her time on the basketball court. After graduating from Episcopal, Taylor played basketball for College of Charleston and Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2014, she returned to her high school alma mater to lead the Knights basketball program, and she has loved every minute of it.
“Eventually the basketball stops bouncing. Being a good person will last your entire life.”
As the girls basketball coach, Taylor shares life lessons with her athletes. She reminds them that there will be challenges in life, but they can and will overcome adversity. She says basketball teaches competitors to work hard, to bounce back and how to fail. She also stresses the importance of respecting your opponents, the officials and the opposing coaches. “Do your best,” she says. “Do it the right way.”
Part of doing things the right way means staying humble and caring for others in meaningful ways. Each year, Taylor and her team of Knights participate in community service efforts together. The team has assisted with food drives and helped with Christmas toy drives. Last school year, they even made it a point to cheer on the Lower School girls basketball team. In addition, the Knights host weekly Bible study sessions with the seniors choosing the topics and leading the discussion.
Taylor is assisted in her coaching efforts by her dad Raymond, who taught her a lot of what she puts into practice. Raymond is a former college athlete and has coached for more than 30 years. Taylor says it’s important to have a great assistant that you can trust and rely on to tell you the truth. Not surprisingly, Taylor says the two have the same basketball mindset with a passion for the defensive aspects of the game. During the season, the two spend six of seven days of the week together, and Taylor wouldn’t want it any other way. “It’s fun working with my dad,” she says.
When they aren’t coaching the Knights, Taylor and her family can often be found watching sports together. As you might imagine, the occasion is lively with so many athletic-minded fans in the same room. “We’re always talking to the TV,” says Taylor. “It’s hard to watch without dissecting each play.” This year, there’s an additional voice in the room as Taylor’s husband, Alex, has joined in on the action. Taylor and Alex were married earlier this year. The original spring wedding ceremony included a guest list of 300. In the midst of the pandemic, that list quickly had to be trimmed to 12. However, looking back Taylor says the experience was great. “We made the best out of it,” she says with a smile. In true 2020 style, the Episcopal coaches and players organized a car parade in Taylor and Alex’s cul-de-sac which is certainly something that won’t soon be forgotten.
Taylor is still learning and growing. This summer, she began working toward a doctorate in leadership studies with a concentration in athletic administration. Taylor gives her mom a lot of credit for her academic success, saying mom kept her focused on her studies even when Taylor was only thinking about the hardwood. She also credits Episcopal with her academic success saying college was a breeze after her experience as a Knight. She says as an adult she now appreciates that her parents enrolled her in Episcopal as a kindergartener. “They sacrificed a lot for me to be here with their time and finances,” she says. That commitment paid off. “The whole experience here shaped me,” says Taylor. “I would not trade a moment of it.”
The Episcopal community has long been a fan of Taylor. As a student, she was a recipient of the Webster Cup and Annslee Laura Phillips Female Athlete of the Year Award. As a coach and teacher, she continues to make tremendous contributions to the school’s athletics program and the students she mentors. Join us in thanking her for the difference she makes.
Anyone who speaks with Coach Heidi immediately realizes that there is a positive spark and natural joy about her. “My mom raised me to make lemonade,” she says with a smile. “You have to find the positive in everything you do.” That positive energy is apparent as you watch Coach Heidi escort young Knights to Lower School during carpool, as you see her enjoy a laugh with her colleagues and as her team makes her proud on the softball field.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” says Coach Heidi. Growing up she had great examples of the positive influence of teachers in her grandmother, who was a teacher and administrator, and her neighbor former Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur. “I wanted to be just like Ms. Myra when I grew up,” she says. Coach Heidi grew up on the softball field, playing outfield, catcher and third base. Her love for the sport began while playing tee-ball as a young girl. “My happy place is a field,” she says. Eventually, she also played basketball and danced, but it was that initial love of softball that remains a constant. “It’s in my blood,” she says.
Throughout high school in north Louisiana, Coach Heidi honed her softball skills and earned a scholarship to play at Mississippi College. She remembers her first day of college practice. “I went to the dorm room and cried,” says Coach Heidi. “I called my mom and said this was a dream come true, and if I never step foot on a field again, I’ll be ok.” However, Coach Heidi continued living her dream and even went on to be a graduate assistant for the team. After college, she returned to Baton Rouge as a PreK teacher and administrator at KinderCare Learning Center. As soon as she returned, Coach Heidi reached out to her friend and mentor Ms. Myra. It was July 2000 and Ms. Myra was not only excited to hear from Coach Heidi, but she also offered her a job with the Knights. Another of Coach Heidi’s dreams became a reality and she found herself coaching first base while Ms. Myra coached third.
Coach Heidi grew up on the softball field and loves her role as the Knights Head Softball Coach.
After 20 years at Episcopal, Coach Heidi is still all smiles as she discusses her dream job. “I’ve always loved school,” she says. That love now encompasses a community of former and current players, Lower School PE students and her coaching colleagues. “This is where I want to retire from,” she says. It’s also the place where, in 2008, she married her husband Jeff. Her son Drew is following in her footsteps, growing up on the field just as Coach Heidi did. “He loves to be here as much as I do,” she says. In fact, fourth grade Drew may one day be a coach as he aspires to be the Episcopal Athletic Director.
With a 50+ year history, many have long-standing connections to Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. However, not many can trace that connection back to their own living room where the conversations between the founders began. Lower School English teacher Margaret Boudreaux’s father, Mr. G. Allen Penniman Jr., was one of the original supporters of establishing a new, independent school for the Baton Rouge community. Now all these years later, Margaret is set to retire from the place she has called home for so long.
Margaret, who graduated in 1976, began attending Episcopal the first year it was established. Before she ever put on an Episcopal uniform or stepped foot on campus, Margaret was a part of the community. Her father modeled for her what it meant to live with passion and vision as she watched Mr. Penniman and his partners make plans for the school. She says even when her father traveled, Episcopal was on his mind. “He would seek out the private schools and tour them,” she says. “He was always thinking about School and how to make it better. This passion of his was an enormous part of my upbringing, and it influenced me throughout my life,” says Margaret.
Margaret’s own passion for Episcopal grew once she became a student. She remembers her first impression of the Woodland Ridge school. “The campus was so beautiful,” she says. She also remembers the close-knit, family feeling that Episcopal offered and the positive influence of her teachers. “I revered my teachers who loved me but made me toe the line,” she says.
After Episcopal, Margaret studied liberal arts at Rhodes College. She married Emmett, and they had two children. When it was time for Elliott and Anne to attend school, there was no question as to where they would go. Elliott graduated from Episcopal in 2010 and Anne in 2014. Seeing her children attend the school that had played such an important role in her own life provided Margaret another connection to the Episcopal community, this time as a parent and volunteer. Margaret became a certified teacher and joined the faculty in 2006.
In a 2017 article highlighting Episcopal alumni, Margaret spoke of the importance of her work as an educator. “I believe we teach the future leaders of our community,” said Margaret. “I wake up every day happy to teach bright 10 and 11 year olds.” Margaret does this with dedication and passion. “I feel each child has a special lock and I needed to find the right key to open them to embrace learning,” she says.
As Margaret looks toward her next chapter, she will treasure her Episcopal experience. “I’ve had the greatest opportunity to work with an outstanding faculty and I’ve loved seeing my school grow to be a flagship of innovative education while always maintaining the integrity of the individual,” says Margaret. “I love that faith is embedded in our lives.”
Margaret’s own story and the story of Episcopal are forever entwined. She watched her father follow through with his vision for the school, and she and her children benefited from his dedication to a dream. She has even had the unique opportunity to return and ensure that the next generation receives that same educational experience.
Margaret’s legacy as an Episcopal teacher and volunteer will live on. Thank you for your service and passion, Margaret. We will miss you!
Speaking with Episcopal’s own Micheal Posey makes you yearn to live your dreams to learn new languages and experience the world. He makes linguistics sound adventurous, and like a secret portal to new cultures and ways of life. He can communicate to varying degrees in nine languages. Ni hao. Buenos dias. Hellorr!
He’s a passport-stamping world traveler, a would-be scuba diver and has completed a FULL-marathon. But did you know he was once on a TV game show or that he owned an egg roll restaurant inspired by his mother’s recipes?
It’s really no surprise to those who know him that Micheal is an avid learner and traveler. He says his mom tells him he was always adventurous. There are stories of a young Micheal running up and down the aisles of an airplane. As a child he also proudly accepted a set of wings from a co-pilot. As an adult, he has challenged himself to visit all Spanish-speaking countries. So far, he has traveled to approximately 18. He’s challenged himself to visit all 50 states. He’s already checked 46 off of his list. He’s hiked the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru. He’s perfectly balanced an egg on its end on the equator in Ecuador. He’s stood before the Eiffel Tower in wonder. “Once you see Paris, it’s hard to go back,” he says.
Like any explorer, Micheal knows that travel requires flexibility and quick reactions. He has certainly experienced his share of comical mishaps. He has been content and relaxed on a flight only to have that shattered as the flight crew announces the descent into a completely different airport. Rerouted flight? Emergency landing? No, Micheal had simply boarded the wrong plane and traveled to the wrong destination! However, he took it in stride and the mistake simply meant an unexpected night in an unplanned location. When learning to scuba dive in Mexico, his tank ran out of oxygen. This born communicator and language aficionado struggled with not having words to express his need for air. He didn’t panic, and he was able to tap into the dive instructor’s tank and eventually surface safely.
Micheal’s openness to adventure has also made it possible for unexpected rewards. Thinking quickly once earned him a trip to Hawaii and San Francisco after appearing on the TV show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Imagine Micheal dressed in a physician costume with his friend by his side dressed as a nurse. To his shock and surprise, Micheal was singled out from the audience to answer a question about the proximity of two destinations. He answered correctly and both trips were his!
In addition to being a traveler, Micheal is also a foodie. In fact, he was a restaurateur at one point in his life. Inspired by their mother’s cooking, Micheal and his brother opened an egg roll shop in Richmond, Virginia. Mae Khan Egg Rolls featured unique creations such as the TexMex or Philly cheesesteak egg roll. Micheal’s love of food is a perfect complement to his love of travel. As he logs the miles, he is always open to trying local delicacies, whether it’s snails in France, alpaca in Peru, corn fungus in Mexico or even crickets and grasshoppers. “An open mind means an open palette,” he says.
“Learning takes me from adventure to adventure,” says Micheal. “I know a little about a lot of things.” One of Micheal’s favorite topics to explore is language. As he learns terms and phrases, he often tries to determine how the same meaning would be expressed in another language. For example, he notices that the nuisance of referring to a simple chair in either a male or female form has meaning in some languages. He ponders the implications of languages such as Vietnamese being devoid of subjunctives. He also enjoys learning the latest teenage expressions and their unexpected meanings. Being an Upper School teacher allows him to stay current and in touch with student references. “I can relate to students through it,” he says. “It keeps me young. I like to share a lot, but I learn from my students.” Micheal loves teaching. He encourages an open and relaxed classroom environment in which ideas are shared and thoughts converge. “I’m not trying to teach you what you can find through a quick Google search,” he says. “We’re here to learn and we’ll do it in a friendly environment that provokes thought and we’ll see where it goes.”
With all of this, Micheal still finds ample time for professional development. He has attended three National Endowment of the Humanities Institutes and was awarded a teaching grant from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South. He has even explored cybersecurity and earned a Google Educator Certification (Level 2). He serves as the long-time editor of PRIMA, a newsletter distributed by the American Classical League and has leadership roles with state and national classical and foreign language teachers’ organizations.
If there was an Indiana Jones of philology, Micheal Posey would be it, even if he doesn’t think of himself that way. “I’m usually boring,” he says with a grin. “My superpower is teaching.” What better way for students to learn a new language than from someone who finds language so alive and inspiring? Micheal’s global treks allow him to fully experience the world and bring those lessons back to the classroom. We are glad he is sharing his superpower with us.
Under the Friday night lights of Memorial Stadium as the Knights prepare for battle, a special member of the Episcopal community links arms with the captains and approaches midfield. It’s the Homecoming game, with all the fanfare such an occasion warrants, and Tasha Lemon has been selected by the athletes to serve as their honorary team captain.
Tasha has been a part of the Episcopal community for 10 years. Initially hired part time, she never imagined that someday she would be taking the field or watching little Knights grow up right before her eyes. However, her tremendous work ethic immediately impressed Episcopal administrators, and in no time she was hired permanently. Now, after a decade of service she’s found more than she ever imagined.
A New Beginning
It takes someone with faith, strength and resilience to be open to possibilities, to find the hidden guideposts along the way and to brave a different path. Tasha grew up in a small town in Cajun country. She is daddy’s girl and did whatever she could to spend time with her father. “He was my first true love,” she says. She learned to cook by watching him. “Every time he was in the kitchen, I was there.” She remembers learning the art of making the perfect fried chicken from him at nine years old. To this day she says there are dishes that can’t be replicated by anyone but her beloved dad. As she discusses those moments, it is clear how much they still mean to her and how much they have molded her into the woman she is today. Her father instilled her with an unwavering work ethic and the determination to do the right thing. This gave her the courage and vision to strike out on her own and create the life she desired.
After 13 years in Baton Rouge, Tasha has created an extended family. When she first arrived at Episcopal, people like Chef Pat and Mrs. Mary took her under their wing. “I’ve learned a lot of things here from them,” she says. “They made me who I am today.” Tasha’s extended family also includes the students she serves every day. “I’m here for the kids,” she says with a grin. As she serves the 900+ students each day, she gets to know them. Even though the cafeteria can be a bustling place, she always seems to have time to share a warm hello and that infectious smile.
The Real Deal
“When I think of Tasha all I can think of is her love,” says Chef Pat. “She loves her family, she loves working and most of all she loves the children at Episcopal. She is the real deal. A big smile to match her big heart. And hands down the hardest working person on campus.”
Long before the first student arrives on campus, Tasha is here. Arriving at 6 am she begins preparing the cafeteria for the day. After serving students in the cafeteria, she finishes her day overseeing the Episcopal athletics concession stand as the Knights take on their latest opponent. Tasha has managed the concession stand for five years now, and while the hours may be tiring for some, she enjoys every bit of it. “When you love your job, it comes natural,” she says. And it does come naturally for Tasha. She knows the players, their families and many of the Knights fans. In fact, she has made such an impact on the community that the concession stand is being named in her honor. The Chauvin family chose to honor her in this way because of her connection to their son David. With all of the students and visitors who visit the stand, Tasha always knows just what little David wants and has it ready for him when he stops by. Caring for others is simply what Tasha does and her new beginning has allowed her to express that in meaningful ways.
With strength comes gratitude and the ability to recognize those blessings in unexpected places. “I thank God to be here,” says Tasha. “I’m grateful every morning for a new 24.” When she first joined the Episcopal family all those years ago, she never imagined that one day she would be a blessing to so many. She couldn’t imagine that she would one day be on the field with athletes or that the concession stand would bear her name. She remembers athletic director Randy Richard telling her that the work she does here never goes unnoticed. That sentiment means a lot. “It’s a warm feeling of joy,” she says. “I truly say I’m blessed.”
People like Tasha make the Episcopal community special. She has the heart of a champion and the strength of a Knight. Thank you for sharing your joy with us.
Do you have a special message for Tasha? Leave it in the comments section below.
Congratulations to the 2019-2020 Newton Distinguished Faculty Award recipients!
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge is extremely honored to recognize three talented and thriving faculty members. They are true gifts to our students, to our community and we are pleased that they have been chosen for this recognition. This year's honorees celebrated with Patty and Carl Newton, Head of School Hugh McIntosh and members of the Administrative Council this week.
About The Newton Upper School Distinguished Faculty Award
Patty and Carl Newton established the Newton Distinguished Faculty Award seven years ago because they believe that excellent teachers make a tremendous difference in the lives of students. The Newtons are very grateful for the positive impact that the teachers at Episcopal had on their two children. Each year, three Newton Distinguished Faculty recipients are selected and awarded a stipend in support of their continued professional development.
Read more about this year's award recipients below:
Past Recipients Include:
Congratulations to Episcopal’s Bridget Henderson! Bridget was voted the Favorite Private Elementary School Principal in Baton Rouge by readers of Baton Rouge Parents Magazine! On any given day, you can find Bridget wishing students a happy birthday in Morning Meeting, visiting with faculty about the lessons they have planned or even spending time with PreK students in the garden. Her love for children is obvious and infectious.
“I always knew I wanted to be in education,” says Bridget, who grew up not far from Baton Rouge in Gonzales. “We played school a lot.” As the baby of a family with eight children, Bridget had plenty of siblings on which to practice her teaching skills. She says while her mother wasn’t a teacher, she raised the family as if she were. Bridget remembers a yellow suitcase in her mother’s closet full of treasures that young students need to succeed. Whenever there was a school project, Bridget and her siblings would crack open the case to find sticky letters, construction paper, fabric and sequins. “We were inspired to think creatively,” says Bridget. She remembers playing in the yard, imagining shapes among the clouds and inventing her own fun.
Family is a key component of Bridget’s life. Growing up her parents built onto the family home so that her grandparents could have a separate space close by. Having her grandparents so near meant Bridget had the opportunity to play cards with her grandmother’s friends. She learned to cook. She learned to tie her shoes before she was two. She also developed a strong sense of independence.
“I was born independent,” says Bridget. Bridget always had a desire to lead and she says she took every opportunity to do so. She was very involved in school from an early age at St. Theresa Elementary School. She continued to seek leadership opportunities and became the head cheerleader, a class officer and a member of the high school student council. She was a member of the Beta Club song and dance talent group that won a national title. During her senior year, the cheerleading squad also placed in nationals. While at LSU, she chaired homecoming festivities for her sorority, Delta Zeta. She says the project was a large undertaking and ironically, she earned her highest GPA the semester she tackled it.
Bridget draws from her faith to guide her life. That guidance has come in the form of gentle nudges along the way. For example, the nudges helped her decide between teaching jobs at two area Catholic schools. She eventually became the Episcopal Lower School Division Head after another nudge. She had initially applied for the role of Director of Extended Care. While on campus interviewing for the extended care role, she was approached twice in three minutes by members of the Episcopal community encouraging her to seek the division head role. After teaching for several years at Episcopal, she was happy to return to Lower School as the division head. That joy and enthusiasm for helping children learn has not faded, even after nine years on campus. Bridget knows every student by first name. She reads the books the students have been assigned so that she can chat with them about what they’re reading. She celebrates every student and each teacher’s birthday at Morning Meeting. “I refer to Morning Meeting as my spiritual vitamin,” says Bridget. “It is what each person in Lower School needs to start the day off just right. The community time we share with songs, worship, valuable lessons, special presentations, and birthdays is arguably the most important thing we do each day.”
When she’s not celebrating her Lower School children, Bridget spends as much time as she can with her own family. “I would love for more hours in the day and days of the week for grandbabies, great books, and beach trips,” she says. Bridget loves cooking for her family and is an avid baseball fan. Lately, she has become a fan of the Baton Rouge Community College Bears as her son, Thomas, was recently named the Head Baseball Coach after coaching and teaching at West Monroe High School.
Teaching is a family tradition for Bridget and her husband, Kenny. All three children in their blended family are educators. Maggie recently took a leave from teaching to spend time with Bridget’s two grandsons, Greer and Griffin. Bridget sees the boys as often as she can with Maggie and her husband, Jarred, living in Alexandria. In addition, Taylor is in her first year as a fifth grade teacher at Trinity Episcopal Day School. Taylor and her husband, Brandon, welcomed Bridget’s first granddaughter, Annie, this summer. As you might expect from someone so dedicated to children, Bridget relishes every moment she has with her three grandchildren. She says she is indulgent with the time she dedicates to them and the memories they make together.
Any discussion of Bridget’s family would be lacking without a mention of her four-legged family members. For as long as she can remember, Bridget has been devoted to her pets. In addition to being a mom to three children, she also considers herself a mom to cats, Solomon and Sanibel.
Bridget is passionate about education and helping students grow. She is also passionate about supporting her staff and working together to build a community. “Bridget is an outstanding Division Head,” says Lower School Administrative Assistant Casie Burley. “She cares tremendously about the safety, happiness and success of our students and inspires us all to do and be our best selves. We are fortunate to have her lead us daily.”
Episcopal’s Lower School community truly is a family, thanks to Bridget’s leadership and the dedication of the faculty and staff. It’s no wonder that Bridget was recognized as Baton Rouge Parents Magazine’s Family Favorites Private Elementary School Principal. It’s also no wonder that PreK was honored as the Family Favorites Preschool and Lower School was named the Family Favorites Private Elementary School.
Congratulate Bridget in the comments below.