One West Baton Rouge teacher is showing what it truly means to “Make Awesome Happen.”
Kimberly (Guillot) Eckert, a ninth-grade English teacher at Brusly High School, is currently in the running for the title of Louisiana Teacher of the Year.
“In the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet, ‘It’s an honor that I dream not of,’” Eckert said. “Each day I teach for my toughest critics (high school freshman), and I love it that way. I feel like the fact that I can high-five myself almost daily after delivering my lessons to them, that I’m a total winner. Sometimes they even high-five back.”
Eckert was first named the 2017 Brusly High Teacher of the Year and then moved to the local competition where she was selected as the West Baton Rouge teacher of the year.
“Teaching is my passion and my art so I’m incredibly invested in my students. Their success is my success and their setbacks are my setbacks. They give me everything I put into them, so it motivates me to keep pushing myself harder,” Eckert said. “It’s really just an incredible thing to work so closely with the people who will lead us into the future. I don’t take that lightly. I love that we finish the year better because of each other.”
Eckert began teaching in West Baton Rouge in 2008 as a special education teacher at Port Allen Middle School, where she taught for six years. During her time at PAMS, she also served as a reading interventionist, a mentor teacher, and a master teacher.
Finishing up her ninth year as a teacher and her third at BHS, Eckert currently teaches in English and English honors, as well as Speech Communications.
“I adore my team here at BHS, and they keep pushing me to be better,” Eckert said. “They are very patient with me while I keep learning and I couldn’t ask for more support or laughs. I love this district and can honestly say we’ve got nothing but the best on both sides of the Intracoastal. I’m blessed.”
Brusly High assistant principal Julie Mayeux said that Eckert is one of the most hard-working teachers she knows and that no one truly knows how many hours Eckert spends planning each day.
“Kim has used her experiences with being a [special education] teacher and curriculum coach to scaffold her teaching in order to reach each student. She has every student engaged every day. She has mastered collaborative learning, and she is also on the cutting edge of innovation and technology,” Mayeux said. “Most importantly, the students respect her because she cares about each student and their learning. She holds her students accountable and holds herself accountable for their learning each day.”
Eckert said that it is a two-way street when it comes to keeping a classroom challenging, and she isn’t the only one who challenges her students.
“I really have the coolest job ever. I love that each year I get to spend time teaching and learning from about 100 fresh, real, actual young adults who challenge me, keep me laughing, and make sure there are zero dull moments,” Eckert said. “I also really, really love designing classes for them. It’s incredibly cool to figure out what makes each kid reach his or her best and to make the content engaging and as enjoyable as possible. Every day comes with an adrenaline rush.”
Eckert described the teacher of the year process as “intense,” but said that she was prepared early on because West Baton Rouge had the same requirements at the district level as the state teacher of the year contest required. Each applicant at that level had to submit reflection essays to three questions, student learning targets and data showing student growth for the past two years, a lesson plan, a reflection on the plan, a resume, letters of recommendation and (finally) a teaching video. The semifinalist process – where she is currently – adds on two additional essay questions, a Skype interview as well as a photo with students.
Brusly principal Walt Lemoine said that evidence of Eckert’s success is shown by the fact that no Brusly High teacher has ever made it to the state teacher level.
“I feel very appreciative because I am a product of so many people who have invested so much knowledge, time and trust in me. To be recognized by Brusly High School and West Baton Rouge is amazing and humbling,” Eckert said. “I am very proud to share the work of our district with a larger audience. I don’t want to let anyone down, though, so if I’d dwell on it all I’d probably be really stressed.”