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Nederland High’s Vicki Black named Reaud Award winner for inspiring students

NEDERLAND — Nederland High School’s Vicki Black received the 2020 Wayne A. Reaud Excellence in Education award by the Beaumont Foundation of America.

The ninth grade pre-advanced placement English teacher is one of 15 winners chosen from Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties.

“I was really excited,” Black said. “It’s something that I’ve been nominated for in the past, but didn’t get. This time, when I found out I was really excited.”

Black found about the award right before spring break.

“My husband and I had a chance to celebrate before we found out about COVID-19 and had to quarantine,” she said. “I was really excited. The application itself is a lot of work. I put my heart into it and really tried hard, so it’s amazing to see it pay off.”

The Reaud Excellence award celebrates and recognizes superior contributions of teachers whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Principal Steven Beagle said Black is an exceptional teacher who addresses all the needs of her students.

“The unique thing about this award is while it’s given to individuals, those individuals represent the characteristics and qualities of many teachers who have been successful on our campus,” Beagle said.

Aside from English, Black also teaches senior AVID (advancement via individual determination) students.

Beagle said 100 percent of Black’s AVID students were accepted into higher education.

“I start with my AVID students the summer before they start their senior year,” Black said. “I would have them over to my office and talk about their responsibilities and applications. It’s a partnership with the student, parents and college. I help with finding scholarship opportunities, grades, essays, financial aid applications, etc. It’s my favorite thing to do. I love helping students with their college plans.”

Black has been an AVID counselor for 10 years and a high school English teacher at in the NISD for 13.

Black also is the debate coach for UIL and an Interact Club sponsor.

She has a total of 24 years in education with experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

“When I became a teacher, I realized how many lives can converge in one place looking for something, or someone to help them,” Black said. “I have learned that my students deserve to be treated as more than a cumulative file, a demographic or a statistic. I have learned that no act of kindness is meaningless. I have learned there are many students who are aware of and deeply concerned about issues currently facing our nation and humanity at large but who feel marginalized and ignored. My goal is to help my students to become independent thinkers who are not afraid to take action, leaving nothing to chance and everything to themselves.

“As I continue to teach, I will remember the lives with which I have come into contact, and I hope their memory will guide me as I strive to pursue my evolving goal of serving my students to the best of my ability.”

Black said each Reaud winner is honored at an awards gala where they will receive a crystal obelisk, a portrait and a check for $10,000.

She intends to invest part of the money into a scholarship for future artists.

“One of the things I’d like to do is establish a scholarship in my husband’s father’s name who passed away with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease,” Black said. “He was an artist and a diagnosis like that for an artist is devastating, so I want to establish a scholarship for an applicant who has artistic ability to honor him in that way.”

Black said she wants to thank all those who played a role in her award process.

“I’m very appreciative of the students who nominated me,” she said. “To me, that was the biggest honor, to have students who thought of me. That meant so much.

“For the Reaud committee, it’s a huge honor to get that award. It’s the highlight of my career. I know they had a lot of worthy applicants and the fact that I was chosen meant a whole lot to me as a teacher.”

Other winners in the Mid-County region include Angela Lewis from Port Neches Elementary and Kelsey Thibodeaux from Groves Middle School.