Bridget Begnaud sat in the middle of her cheering first-graders at J. Wallace James Elementary School on Tuesday.
The kids, all 23 of them, had just learned “Miss Begnaud” was elementary school Teacher of the Year for Lafayette Parish public schools.
“Y’all worked hard, too. Group hug. Group hug,” school principal Dana Schmersahl told the class as Begnaud tried not to blush in front of the cameras.
Begnaud is in a group of three teachers and three principals who were chosen by their peers for the Lafayette Parish School District’s top honors.
Lafayette Parish School District teachers who won the award this year are Begnaud; Kathryn Koch, of Comeaux High School; and Holly Comeaux Trahan, at Carencro Middle School. The top principals are John Mouton, of Broussard Middle School; Stacy Danos, of Live Oak Elementary School and Ken Roebuck, of Carencro High School.
Five of the educators were surprised Tuesday with visits by interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune and Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau, who gave baskets of candy to the men and bouquets of flowers to the women.
“On behalf of Lafayette public schools, you are our middle school teacher of the year,” LeJeune told Trahan, an eighth-grade math teacher at Carencro Middle School.
“I’m so excited. I don’t know what to say,” said Trahan, who has taught at Carencro Middle for four years. “I thought I was coming (to the office) for a phone call.”
Carencro Middle Principal Spurgeon Banyard said school officials worked hard to keep Trahan’s award a secret until Tuesday.
Lafayette Parish each year awards teachers and principals from elementary, middle and high schools. Teachers are chosen by a panel of retired educators, and current district principals select the principals of the year.
The district-level winners will represent Lafayette Parish in a regional competition, and could go on to compete for statewide honors.
LeJeune and Billeaudeau started Tuesday by presenting one of the principal’s awards to Roebuck, who was away from Carencro High School and attending a seminar.
Next up was Broussard Middle’s principal, Mouton. When he was informed, Mouton maintained a calm, almost stoic, demeanor. And he seemed a little embarrassed by the attention as print and television reporters and photographers alongside school officials crowded the school’s office.
Billeaudeau handed Mouton his basket of candy, one of which was a PayDay candy bar.
“We wanted to give you a check,” Billeaudeau told him, “but with budget cuts. …”
Mouton, a fourth-year principal, said building solid relationships with students and teachers is key to running a good school.
At Comeaux High School, honors physics and physical sciences teacher Kathyrn Koch was overwhelmed.
“Oh my God, thank you,” she said, barely audible above the cheering of her teenage students.
“I try to get to know the kids on a personal level,” said Koch, who has taught for 29 years.
Live Oak Elementary School Principal Stacy Danos was on leave from the school and unable to accept an award.