The 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year Kimberly Eckert, who calls the West Baton Rouge School District Home, was awarded the state’s first $50,000 fellowship at the 12th annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala.
The Department of Education’s new program allows one educator, chosen from the previous year’s list of Louisiana Teacher of the Year finalists, to spend a school year advocating for an education initiative of their choosing.
Eckert will continue her efforts to recruit and train the next generation of Louisiana educators
The fellowship is supported by a stipend of state funding that is paid directly to the recipient’s school system. It allows the recipient to take a yearlong sabbatical or to decrease their teaching load for the upcoming school year and may be used to pay for substitute teachers, travel costs and other expenses incurred by the recipient related to his or her advocacy initiative.
“Educators who are named Teacher of the Year spend that school year working on education initiatives alongside the Department of Education, serving on the Educator Effectiveness committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and engaging with their peers across the state and nation to better understand the strides that have been made in public education, as well as the challenges that persist,” said BESE Vice President Holly Boffy, who was the 2010 Louisiana Teacher of the Year. “Rather than immediately return to their classroom following their year of service and learning, this fellowship gives the educator the opportunity to act on the initiatives they deem most valuable to our schools and schoolchildren.”
Eckert, who is an English teacher at Brusly High School, spent some of her time as 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year recruiting new educators and elevating the teaching profession. She served as the spokesperson for the state’s “Be a Teacher LA” campaign. She will continue this work by focusing her fellowship on pioneering the national “Educators Rising” program in Louisiana. The program identifies young people, starting with high school students, interested in teaching and provides them with the information, skills and hands-on experience to become successful educators.
Eckert, along with Dr. Kellie Green and Jill Edwards of Port Allen High School, will teach the first group of Educators Rising students in West Baton Rouge. Students from both West Side high schools will participate together as the first students in the state to participate in the teacher training program.
“Receiving this inaugural award is absolutely astounding to me because it’s incredibly empowering and validating that the Department believes so strongly, not only in teacher recruitment but also in my work dedicated to it,” Eckert said. “I’m so excited to have the time to dedicate to this initiative and to still be able to teach my students part of the day. Knowing I have such awesome support to see this work through is a total dream come true.”
“This endeavor is much needed as our biggest need in education is to attract the best and brightest students to the profession that leads to all other professions: teaching,” West Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Wes Watts said. “The fellowship will allow Kim and future teachers to pursue endeavors that promote education in Louisiana without sacrificing financially and without their school districts losing a teaching position.”