TEACHER OF THE MONTH — PNG educator Chris Boucher’s “servant’s heart” earns area-wide honor

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

PORT NECHES — Chris Boucher’s classroom at Port Neches-Groves High School is filled with models of houses, cars and other collectibles.

But while sitting at a table in the center of the room, he was able to point to individual items and tell the story of the student who created it.

A small missile belonged to a former student who enjoyed flying rockets in all four years of high school. He sent it after enlisting in the U.S. Marines. A model house belongs to a civil engineer in Arkansas, while another was created by a now widely-known artist.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“A lot of people see that as clutter,” Boucher said. “This is all heritage.”

Since first hiring on with the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District in 1993, Boucher has kept in touch with his former students’ progress.

It was just one of the many reasons the educator was selected Teacher of the Month, sponsored by Philpott Motors. The designation comes with a $500 gift card.

Principal Scott Ryan called Boucher a utility player.

“He does so much for us,” he said. “He’s the most selfless guy I’ve ever met in my life.”

But the teacher who specializes in electrical work and engineering doesn’t mind.

“I think of work as not something you have to do, but something you want to do,” Boucher said. “I knew at an early age that my place on Earth — I think God put me here to be a teacher. When I was in high school I thought I wanted to teach English, and I don’t know why because my spelling and grammar are horrible. But I’ve always been a storyteller.”

His story began at Colmesneil High School, where he graduated in 1988.

“I went back last summer and helped fix a … machine for Colmesneil High School,” Boucher said. “The guy that’s the principal now was my favorite all-time biology teacher. He told me, ‘you know what, I don’t guess I can hire you?’ I said, ‘No, I love it where I’m at.’ But it was nice to go back home, which I rarely do.”

After high school, he attended Angelina College, where solidified his path in education and picked up methods that would help in his own classes.

Principal Scott Ryan, from left. Student Activities Director Jon Deckert, Port Arthur Newsmedia Marketing Representative Candace Hemelt, Teacher of the Month Chris Boucher, Philpott Motors General Manager Daren Granger and CTE Director Brett McPhatter are pictured. (Monique Batson/The News)

“My college professor was a really super cool guy,” Boucher said. “He brought me out of my shell. As a high school kid I was kind of shy. I’ve always respected other people, but trying to give a speech was a big deal.

“And he brought me out of that shell. He’d take us down to a cafeteria like IHOP and we’d eat breakfast. It just got us out of that classroom environment, and I still believe in sharing that with my kids here.”

After obtaining his teaching certificate from Sam Houston State University, Boucher had his first interview for a formal teaching job. It was with PNGISD.

“I always kind of wanted to go to school there, but never had that opportunity,” he said.

Now, it’s been his second home since 1993 — sometimes his first home.

In addition to his Career and Technology Education courses, Boucher is the Key Club sponsor — a high school service organization that spends three weekends a month working in the community.

“Key Club is a service program where we teach kids to have a servant’s heart, which means to do something without expecting a return,” Boucher said. “And I try to teach that to these Key Clubbers.”

Earlier this year, the approximately 90 members raised $2,500, which they gave to Texas Children’s Hospital. Soon, they will be painting at a local nursing home.

“A couple of weeks ago we painted the dugouts here,” Boucher said. “Those are the same dugouts that, when I hired on here and was teaching woodworking, I had my kids go out and build. Through the years you think of it as heritage. Through the years you just see things getting better. I swore when I took over that I never wanted to leave a bag of tricks for the teacher that took over. I always want to leave something better than when I found it.”

When it comes to Key Club, Boucher said they put a focus on working with those that have special needs and organizations that benefit Alzheimer’s.

Last week, they served food to 1,500 special needs students from across Southeast Texas at the South Texas State Fair.

“You don’t do that because you want recognition. You do that because you’re a difference maker,” Boucher said. “And when those kids become adults, we hope they end up being good people. I was raised to have a servant’s heart, and to teach that to young people is a really big deal.”