BR.wildartmoonlightpicnic.adv TS 801.jpg

Wed Alaloosi, center, shows off the operation of a robotic arm built by 'Medical Mystery Team' members including Marley Gaulthier, 9, left, and Anaiese Darden, 10, right, at a gathering for Westdale Heights Academic Magnet's annual Moonlight Family Picnic, Thursday, March 28, 2019. The annual get-together with food fun and games, also had two bands performing this year, the Ed Perkins Quartet and Alabaster Stag. Families could donate to support the bands and also the school's 'Destination Imagination' program, a school club whose members like the 'Medical Mystery Team' participate regionally in engineering and science competitions.

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I want to publicly thank the hard-working and innovative staff, teachers, and leaders at all of our public and private schools in Baton Rouge, but particularly Westdale Heights Academic Magnet. As a parent of young children, we did our homework, researched schools in our city, and applied for WHAM last year. We were fortunate that our third-grader was accepted into this rigorous program after several years in a nearby Catholic school that provided her with a strong faith-based and academic foundation.

As a graduate of Virginia and East Baton Rouge public schools respectively, my husband and I felt it was very important that our daughter experience a diverse educational and social environment that would prepare her for life and work in a diverse community. We have not been disappointed, as we have met amazing families from all walks of life at WHAM, our neighborhood school.

We appreciate the incredible talent of the teachers and staff, impressive technology in the classroom, and hands-on stimulating experiences in the science lab.

We appreciate the genuine kindness and openness of the students and faculty in a school where we did not know a single parent or child on our first day. We appreciate the academic rigor and how hard the teachers push our daughter to new heights. We appreciate that WHAM teachers and leaders are educating a majority-minority student body where nearly 40 percent come from low-income households and yet test scores are among the highest in the state. We were very proud when our principal, Catasha Edwards, was recognized for her leadership as EBR Principal of the Year and is now a semifinalist for the statewide award.

Our younger child remains in Catholic school, and we are so grateful for the kindness and dedication of his teachers and school leaders as well. While our area schools face a multitude of challenges, I encourage my fellow Baton Rouge parents to recognize and celebrate the growing diversity of high-quality options in our city — traditional public schools, gifted and magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, home schools and more — and the teachers and leaders that are opening up doors to limitless opportunities for our kids.

Camille Pampell Conaway

public and private school mom

Baton Rouge