Teacher: Matt Atkinson

School: Dutchtown High

Grades/Subjects: Physics and engineering

Why this teacher was nominated:

Mr. Atkinson not only inspired my daughter, but many students who thought engineering and physics was not for them. He has tripled the amount of students taking physics, inspiring over 200 kids from diverse backgrounds to believe in themselves and take the “harder” classes. He cares about his students, stays after school for tutoring almost daily, organizes pizza study sessions prior to AP exams and makes learning fun.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I had some really good teachers when I was younger, especially in high school and at LSU, who made a strong impact on me, so I always knew I wanted to do something in education. I fully believe in and value helping young people develop their ability to think on their own, especially critically and analytically, in today’s world.

How has the coronavirus affected your work the most?

It’s certainly been a challenge to try to do as many hands-on activities and labs as possible while following COVID protocols and fitting them in to class time, especially when we were on a hybrid schedule where kids did not come to school in person as often.

What keeps you going, even during the tough times?

The biggest motivator is seeing students grow so much in such a short time with their various thinking skills. Nothing gets me more excited than to see a student who struggles in the beginning start experiencing success as the semester or year goes on! I also love hearing from former students about their post-secondary success. It really reminds me of why we do what we do.