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Teachers of the Year surprised, celebrated by Port Arthur ISD

Third grade teacher Skylar Slaughter and seventh grade teacher Zelma Nico are the elementary and secondary “Teachers of the Year” for 2020-21 in the Port Arthur Independent School District.

Slaughter is an English and language arts, or ELAR, teacher at Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams Elementary and Nico is a math teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Skylar Slaughter is tearful after being surprised Tuesday morning with gifts and flowers.

The two women received a surprise on their doorsteps Tuesday morning when students, staff, principals and Superintendent Mark Porterie arrived with gift baskets and goodies to replace the annual breakfast celebration.

Slaughter said the surprise is like a dream come true.

“It’s been one of my goals to get district teacher of the year, and I am just really honored that everyone came out today,” she said. “Especially my babies, I miss them so much. It’s just amazing. I generally love my babies, and that spills over into everything I do. I love my job. I love my students and I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Adams Elementary Principal Cheryl Tripplett said Slaughter is more than deserving of the award.

“Mrs. Slaughter goes above and beyond in the things she does for her school,” Tripplett said. “She is an amazing teacher that develops these relationships with students and teachers that go on for years after they leave the classroom.

“She’s all about recognizing, appreciating and awarding everyone else, so she deserves so much recognition. They honestly couldn’t have picked a better elementary teacher.”

Family, friends and staff surround teacher Skylar Slaughter, second from left, during a Tuesday morning surprise celebration for the elementary Teacher of the Year.

During her six-year tenure at Adams Elementary, Slaughter has started a water aide initiative to bring safe drinking water to children in Haiti, grown a harvest garden on campus and serves as president of the Parent Teacher Association.

Under her leadership, she has raised a copious amount of money for the school, started an annual fall festival and more.

The veteran teacher serves as a PAISD mentor for new teachers and writes social studies curriculum each year for the district.

Triplett said Slaughter lives and breathes education.

“[Slaughter] is constantly working to make sure her students are successful and foster a love for reading,” Tripplett said. “She is so kind, down to earth, always positive, always happy and always smiling, and she really does it all for the kids, the teachers and the parents.”

Friends and family Tuesday afternoon surround Thomas Jefferson Middle School Teacher of the Year Zelma Nico after a surprise celebration at her home in Port Arthur.

Zelma Nico also received an additional surprise visit Tuesday afternoon when staff, students and families honored her with a drive-thru celebration parade.

“Thank you,” she said to the crowd. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for everything. I miss my students so much. I wish they were right behind me to enjoy this joyous moment. It’s just wonderful.”

Thomas Jefferson Principal Melissa Oliva said it has been an honor serving with Nico.

“She is, in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘She is a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman. That’s [Zelma Nico],’” Oliva said. “In the short time I have known Mrs. Nico, I have witnessed her unconditional love and commitment to our students and how she leads with purpose, vision and heart.

“I am a proud to have Zelma Nico as part of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School family and celebrate her hard work and achievements.”

Superintendent Mark Porterie said Slaughter and Nico exude the pride and standards the Port Arthur Independent School District’s expects of its teachers.

“We are honored to let these educators know how appreciative we are of them,” he said. “Both of them are dedicated instructors and have been so since they stepped into the classroom. Honestly, I couldn’t see either of them at any other profession. They are what the students need and what PAISD needs.”