MONIQUE BATSON — Special teachers create impacts that last lifetimes

Published 12:05 am Friday, January 21, 2022

In second grade at Woodcrest Elementary in Port Neches, my homeroom teacher created monthly reading spaces for us to utilize in our free time.

It might have been a rocket ship built from cardboard and covered in tinfoil, or a teepee framed in yard sticks and surrounded by craft paper. But, as someone who wasn’t very popular among the other students, I always felt more comfortable in the reading spaces than anywhere else in the school.

So each time she swapped, she would pack the old one up in her car, meet me and my mom near the school and let me take it home so I’d have that special space in my room.

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In fifth grade at Port Neches Elementary, my reading teacher was a huge Star Trek fan and each day would have us practice the “live long and prosper” sign until we could do it with both hands. (Which, by the way, I can still do.)

I don’t remember what the reason for it was, but I remember it. And I remember it because it was fun.

In sixth grade at Port Neches Middle School, my math teacher called 0s “goose eggs.” And I learned very quickly that I did not want those. While I, unfortunately, got a few, I still to this day relate geese to bad grades.

Soon after, my mother married and we moved to Nederland.

In my eighth grade year at C.O. Wilson Middle School, my world history teacher nominated me for a Bullpup Pride Pin one month. It was something given to students who were seen as leaders in their class.

I hadn’t always been a very good student and struggled a lot with grades most of my life. But that day she made me feel seen. And not just seen, but capable.

When I got to high school, I found reading to be my favorite subject, and often times my favorite teachers.

My sophomore year, we read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Or, at least, most of us did. I read half of it and decided I didn’t care much for it, so I rented the movie. But she knew something I did not: the book and the movie end differently. So naturally the final test was multiple choice and included both endings as an answer.

It was clear from my selection which road I’d taken. I can still see her handwriting at the top of the paper saying, “pssssst… the movie ends different than the book.” And I never tried that again.

The following year, my English teacher was a Saturday Night Live fan and occasionally had us watch episodes for credit. That year our mid-term was to copy the lyrics of a song — any song — for the class and then play the song for everyone. It might have been reading in a different way, but it was certainly memorable.

And my senior year, there was my English teacher who so often said she wanted us to be Oxford Clerics, which is a scholar in The Canterbury Tales. And she was so incredibly kind and gentle, I wanted desperately to be that for her — so much so that I might have been one of five people there on “Senior Skip Day” because I believed the “we’re going to take a test” line when in reality we watched a movie.

Still, I landed in summer school after my senior year.

But my government teacher walked into the class I was in to speak with my instructor. And on his way out he stopped, pointed to me and said: “Watch that one. She may seem like she’s not paying attention, but she’ll surprise you.”

Those are just a handful of the incredible educators I had in my life.

And that’s one of the many reasons I’m so grateful to be part of our Teacher of the Month award. Title sponsor Philpott Motors has joined with Port Arthur Newsmedia to recognize an area teacher each month and surprise them with a $500 gift certificate. Landlord’s Daiquiri Den Drive Thru & Lounge has also joined with a $100 gift certificate.

We’ll introduce you to January’s teacher in this weekend’s editon of The Port Arthur News. This educator has not only left an imprint on her students, but on her supervisors, as well — to the point that when her principal moved from Lincoln Middle School to Woodrow Wilson Early College High School, she brought Yolanda Avery with her.

So make sure to pick up a copy of this weekend’s edition to learn all about Ms. Avery’s deserving honor, and watch each month as we highlight a different educator from the area.

And, perhaps reach out to some of your favorite teachers on social media and let them know about the influence they had on your life. It’s one of the first things I did after joining Facebook, and every one of them thanked me for letting them know how influential they truly were.

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.