Front row: Margaret Penniman Boudreaux – 1976, Mellie Preis Bailey – 1996, Taylor Mims Walker – 2009, Virginia Day – 2008, Kate McDuff – 2008, Carter Smith – 2005. Back row: Julie Pace Mendes – 2001, Julie Weaver – 1983, Amy Weidig Arceneaux – 1987, Emily Monroe Godfrey – 1998, Stephen Anderson – 2002. Not pictured: Jimmy Williams – 1997.
For 12 Episcopal alumni this statement rings very true. This group graduated from Episcopal School of Baton Rouge and later returned as faculty and staff members. Now everyday they get to share their love of the school and its community with future generations. What a legacy!
"It’s kind of surreal sometimes,” says 2001 graduate Julie Pace Mendes who now teaches PreK-4. Mendes says the school is strangely very much the same, yet so different from her time on campus. However, she says while there may be new buildings and more technology, the feelings are still the same. “There is no place like Episcopal.”
Capital Campaign Director and 1996 graduate Mellie Preis Bailey, says the Episcopal student experience was in a word, “transformational”. “I met my husband, my best friends and my whole network at Episcopal.” She says Episcopal is where she learned “how to build relationships, how to meet people and treat people”.
All of the alumni agree that an Episcopal education is so much more than just classroom education. They all point to the sense of community they recognized as a child and feel now as an adult.
Class of 1976 graduate Margaret Penniman Boudreaux says that feeling has existed from the very beginning. Boudreaux, who now teaches fifth grade English remembers fondly the small, close-knit family environment. As a member of the faculty, she wants to impart that on today’s students.
“I believe we teach the future leaders of our community,” says Boudreaux. “I wake up every day happy to teach bright 10 and 11 year olds.”
With this sense of connection and community comes a sense of responsibility.
“I’m very thankful for the education and to be here to give back to a school that’s given me so much,” says 2009 graduate and physical education teacher, Taylor Mims Walker.
“It’s exciting to be helping form the school to go forward for the next generation. I want to leave it better than I found it,” says Stephen Anderson, Class of 2002 graduate, Swim Teach Coach and Math Department Chair.
Julie Weaver ’83 graduate and Middle School Social Studies teacher says while this is now her children’s school, her sense of attachment remains. “I have as much at stake in it as they do.”
For some alumni the connection runs deeper than a shared school experience.
“It’s such a blessing to be here every day. Everyone is nice and supportive. It’s like family,” says Amy Weidig Arceneaux ’87 graduate and third grade teacher.
Like several other alumni on staff, Arceneaux and fellow Lower School teacher Emily Monroe Godfrey ‘98 are truly a part of the Episcopal legacy. Their mothers taught at Episcopal, they teach at the school and their children also attend Episcopal. (Arceneaux’s father also tutors Episcopal students.) The same is true for 2005 graduate and Director of Choral Activities, Carter Smith whose mother, Lucy Smith, is the Middle School Division Leader. Kate McDuff, a 2008 graduate and the current Development Operations Assistant, is one of six in her family to graduate from Episcopal, which was founded by her grandfather. One of those six is Boudreaux, whose two children also graduated from Episcopal. Weaver also shares the Episcopal connection with her twins who graduated in 2016 and her son who is a current junior.
The Episcopal connection creates a sense of honor and pride among these alumni. They feel blessed to return to Woodland Ridge to share their legacy.
“It’s kind of like coming home for me. It’s a place I love, where I grew up,” says Godfrey, who also says working among the students makes her feel young. Bailey and McDuff agree. “It’s a good feeling. There’s a joy of being back home,” says Bailey. “I feel at peace here,” says McDuff.
For some alumni it is realizing a dream to return home. “I knew if I wanted to be a teacher and be at the best school in Baton Rouge, then I wanted to be here,” says Anderson.
2008 graduate Virginia Day says after spending many summers on campus helping her mom and other educators, she also knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I thought there was a possibility I could end up back here,” she says. And end up back here she did. When she arrived on campus as the new sixth grade social studies teacher, Day was given the keys to the very same classroom where she took sixth grade social studies as a student. While she says it was a little strange at first, she loves the opportunity to share her experience with today’s students. “I’m the person I am today because of this place.”
Being a part of the Episcopal community gives these adults a unique perspective and outlook when working with students.
Mendes says she enjoys telling her Pre-K students that this was her school too. Several others say they can empathize with students as far as workload and expectations. “I’ve been in (their) shoes, walked the sidewalks and locker rooms and worn the uniforms,” says Walker. “I’ve sat where they sat. I know what the junior year gauntlet is like and how I managed it,” says Anderson.
Smith says being an alumni helps you understand the social issues students face. “Even though it’s different from 12 years ago, it gives you credibility,” he says.
For Godfrey and Arceneaux, having been students at the school pushes them to do their best. “I appreciate what a fantastic place it is. It pushes us as educators because you appreciate it and want to provide an equally fantastic experience for the kids,” says Godfrey. “You want it to be the best because you had the best,” says Arceneaux.
For Weaver, the experience helps her relate to the students and the traditions of the school. “There is definitely an Episcopal culture. It’s really helpful when teachers understand that culture,” says Weaver.
The alumni all understand and appreciate the level of education they received and its impact on their life.
Boudreaux sums that that feeling up well. “Episcopal prepared me.”
These alumni could be doing anything, anywhere because of the preparation they received. In fact, Assistant Athletic Director and physical education teacher Jimmy Williams, a 1997 graduate, was a member of the 2005 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl team. When asked what they’d be doing if not working at Episcopal, everything from member of an opera company or physical therapist to PR/advertising executive or full time painter was mentioned. However, because of their connection and love of the school, the majority of them simply couldn’t imagine life without Episcopal. There is joy and excitement that comes from giving back to the school community and making a difference in the lives of students, the way others did for them. What an incredible testament to the lasting impact Episcopal has on students over the course of a lifetime.
The story of these alumni truly is the ultimate homecoming.