Carencro High English teacher Pamela Sorensson was named a finalist for 2021 Louisiana Teacher of the Year Friday.

Sorensson, a sophomore English and honors English teacher, was among nine educators from around the state who advanced to the finals round. Other honorees include educators from East Baton Rouge Parish, Lafourche Parish, Madison Parish, Morehouse Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, St. Charles Parish, Vermilion Parish and Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans.

Nine Principal of the Year finalists were also named Friday. In addition to Sorensson, Acadiana had two other finalists with Carrie Varino from Vermilion Parish named in the teacher category and Rachelle Brown of Vermilion Parish named in the principal category.

"We're in uncharted waters in education, but one thing that remains constant is the life-changing impact a high-quality teacher has on a child,” Louisiana Education Superintendent Cade Brumley said in a statement.

Sorensson said she watched the live video announcement Friday morning while attending a graduation meeting at Carencro High and her administrators and fellow teachers exploded with clapping and cheers when she was named. The 29-year-old said she felt “humbled and blessed” by the honor.

“It’s cool because it’s kind of a win for all of us. I don’t feel like it’s just something for me. I feel like it’s shared with Lafayette Parish and shared with Carencro. This is something we can all be proud of because we all work so hard together,” she said. “Any recognition I might have wouldn’t be without the support of so many other teachers.”

Sorensson has worked at Carencro High for six years; she took a one-year hiatus after three years to work for an educational software company but was quickly pulled back into the classroom by her love for the students, she said. Each day, she said, she works to strike a balance between being firm and flexible, compassionate and challenging, to give the students what they need.

“I really feel like God blessed me when he sent me to Carencro because I do feel like it’s a family unit who’s encouraged me these last seven years and given me more opportunities than I deserve,” Sorensson said.

The overall finalists in each category — elementary, middle and high school — will be honored at a virtual ceremony during the 14th annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration later this year, a statement said. From those three category winners, an overall Teacher of the Year will be selected.

Lafayette Superintendent Irma Trosclair said Lafayette educators work incredibly hard and it’s thrilling to see one celebrated at the state level. She said Sorensson brings enthusiasm and passion to her classroom and the district is lucky to have an educator like her on its team.

Trosclair praised Sorensson as a model for young teachers in the district to look up to.

“I am so excited for her. I am so proud of her. A couple years ago in a previous role, I happened to walk into her class and observe one day. I didn’t want to leave. I was so captivated, and you could tell it was what she did day in and day out. It wasn’t because I was observing. … I left her classroom that day and told Ms. Qualey, 'You have a keeper right there,’” Trosclair said.

Carencro High Principal Mary Qualey cheered Sorensson in June after she was named a semifinalist for state Teacher of the Year. She described the 29-year-old as a compassionate, thoughtful and creative leader who brings a collaborative spirit to her work as the English department director.

Qualey, like Trosclair, said the level of engagement and rigorous teaching Sorensson achieves in her classroom is impressive. She has a talent for pulling students deeply into the material and inspiring reflection and debate.

“She gives her heart to her students every day. … She creates better people,” Qualey said. “I think she inspires everybody around her to be better people and to reach students.”


Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com