SEE IT — Port Arthur educator surprised in classroom as Teacher of the Month

Published 12:40 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

Yolanda Avery could not have seemed more surprise if she’d tried this week when she learned she had been chosen Teacher of the Month sponsored by Philpott Motors.

The Student Success Instructor at Woodrow Wilson Early College High School doubled over with her hands over her face as Principal LaSonya Baptiste explained why she and a few strangers had entered the classroom.

“This morning we have a special presentation and I wanted you all to be part of this presentation because we are here to celebrate and surprise Mrs. Avery,” Baptiste told the students in the classroom.

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“She has no idea what is happening, but Mrs. Avery was actually selected in a district-wide drawing. Teachers names were submitted to the district and they had a district-wide drawing for a special teacher they wanted to recognize, and Mrs. Avery happened to be the winner.”

But considering the month she’s having, it was almost serendipitous.

This week she was also named Woman of the Year at the 36th annual Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Celebration and Brunch.

“I need to go to the casino,” she joked.

But should she choose to, it’d be quite the event. Because with her selection also came a $500 gift card from Philpott Motors, and gift cards from Landlord’s Daiquiri Den and Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant.

“Mrs. Avery, on behalf of all our associates at Philpott, we know that teachers are irreplaceable,” Philpott representative Robert Thewman told the teacher. “And it’s very special what you do for kids every day, and what your passion is.”

And with 30 years in education, it’s become clear that passion is the right word.

The Silsbee native and Lamar University graduate started in higher education before working in the Beaumont Independent School District. From there she went to Lincoln Middle School, where she worked under then-principal Baptiste to help students through the college readiness program.

So when Baptiste was named principal of Woodrow Wilson Early College High School this school year and the Student Success Instructor position became available, Baptiste knew exactly who to call.

“Mrs. Avery provides instructional guidance and monitors the academic progress of juniors and seniors to ensure they have the confidence, tools and abilities to experience personal and academic successes,” Baptiste told Port Arthur Newsmedia. “Students are assisted in developing effective work and study habits while completing critical high school, college and career readiness requirements.”

Avery said the move has been rewarding in several ways.

“I love being at Early College,” she said after stepping outside the classroom. “It’s been fun to see my students grow from middle school to now. A lot of them are in there right now, and it’s been great.”

Each month, Philpott Motors will provide a $500 gift card to an educator chosen from administrators in schools across Port Arthur, Groves, Nederland and Port Neches. At the end of 2022, a Teacher of the Year will be chosen from those that had been selected.

But despite her obviously lucky month, Avery remained surprised well after the presentation.

“This has been an amazing week. Wait, district wide? Y’all have blown…” she said, tapering off as she shook her head and smiled.