Written by Kylie Altier
2024 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year
Calling All Louisianans!
Written by Kylie Altier
School has started again, and as a teacher, I am already feeling inspired by my students and the opportunities this school year will bring! However, our class is bigger than my students and I, as it also includes our entire community… that’s right, you! Our children and our future are not only our collective responsibility but also our collective gift. The time is now for everyone to have a direct impact on children, in my classroom or any classroom across Louisiana!
When I moved to Louisiana two years ago, I found myself chasing two dreams. I wanted to be an amazing teacher and an amazing mom at the same time. I wondered if I would be able to provide all the things my school and home babies deserved. However, joining the community of Baton Rouge taught me that I am not alone and that I do not have to provide it all by myself. In some instances, the community came to me, and in others, I sought out the community. In either case, the results were far greater than I could have imagined. It has truly maximized my effectiveness as a teacher and also allowed me to find balance. Below are a few ways the community and classroom have become one for my students:
- Guest Teachers: I started Genius Hour in my class and allowed my students the space to research passion projects. When they began picking topics way over my head like paleontology, herpetology, and fashion design, I looked to experts throughout our community to come to share their knowledge. We got to hold hissing cockroaches when learning about insects, write with actual lead stones when learning about geology, and hear from a perfect 10-scoring LSU gymnast about what it takes to be a champion. These community partners delivered lessons far superior to what I could teach. When an LSU Geology Ph.D. student came to my classroom. He came with a wide array of magnets that amazed every child. Within his presentation, he casually mentioned the SC Maglev, a train in Japan that runs on magnets. When he left, my student said “What if all cars could run on magnets too? Do you think we could go super-fast?” In this moment, the impact of studying passions was so clear. In our midst, we have future world-changers. So if you know a lot about anything, can you share that knowledge with the future?
- Story time Readers: When I arrived at my new school, I learned about a 40-year partnership with a local church that has adopted our school. They partner volunteers with classrooms to read stories anywhere from once a month to once a week. My story time reader, Mrs. Laura, has truly become a part of our class. My students jump for joy at the opportunity to be read to for pleasure. This also connects them to another adult who values literacy. This partnership not only benefits my students but makes me feel loved in a big way. When she reads, she encourages me to sit back and enjoy the book along with my students and these minutes feel like magic as we cling to every word. When she walks out of the door, I feel invigorated to make sure each of my students feels as loved as she has made me feel.
- Big Initiatives:At my previous school, I had started a school garden. It took endless hours of work, research, and effort. When I became a mom, I thought my gardening days would be on pause for a while. However, yet again, this community came in to teach me that it is not all on my shoulders. Atmos Energy, Southern University and Volunteers in Public Schools teamed up to give 3 schools brand new school gardens and I happened to be at one of those schools! This amazing initiative allowed me to start a garden club of 47 tiny gardeners. The garden has become a place of nourishment for our bodies, minds, and hearts. The garden is theirs and gifted them a huge opportunity in their educational career to be the ones making decisions, leading the charge and collaborating with students across ages and classes. Big initiatives could be anything you believe a school needs. If you can dream it, our students can bring it to life!
- One-on-One Tutors: Through Volunteers in Public Schools, any students in my classroom who need extra help can get assigned to a one-on-one tutor. Having this individual time with an adult gives them the opportunity for truly individualized learning and a personal connection. One of my students last year was a developing reader, so when I instructed him, I had a targeted focus. When he was partnered with his very own reader, she allowed him to choose one book for them to read together. He instantly went to a lengthy chapter book about dragons that would easily take them the rest of the school year to read and she never even blinked. She took the time to help him through the big words and taught him to reread choppy sentences. When she showed up at the door, this formerly reluctant reader ran like he was running toward a candy store. By the time the book was finished, he was forever changed. I offered him specialized foundational reading instruction and she offered him her time and his choices. Together, we created a lifelong reader.
- Grants: Two weeks after moving here, I got my first email informing me of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Academic Distinction Fund. This grant seeks to inspire innovation in the classroom and aims to fund teachers’ wildest ideas to promote student growth. Fast forward to my spring semester. I got to take students to the moon and hear a new type of excitement squeal from the most deserving little ones! We have walked alongside komodo dragons, peeked over the edge of the Great Wall, and looked up at the larger-than-life redwood trees in California. There are loud moments of students screaming out about all they are experiencing, and there are quiet moments where one may sit on the ground in awe. In all the moments, I see curiosity, connections and critical thinking taking place. While these headsets have changed my classroom, another huge impact has been learning that local companies and organizations want to hear from teachers on how we make schools and our communities a better place.
All my life, I have believed that if I give love to the world, that same love will come back to me. Every day I feel a small microcosm of this. I go to work and give all my love to my students, and I leave feeling so loved in return. But since being in Louisiana, I have felt that power amplified in a whole new way. The love I gave to my students seemed to echo back with endless love from our community. Today and every day, the children will give that love back. In a small way, this might look like the huge smile on your face when they run to hug you. In a big way, they may be changing the agricultural landscape of the future, inventing magnetic levitating vehicles, or authoring our next great adventures. When you take the time to give to children, you will be rewarded immediately, and our community will be a better place because of it. Since partnering with the community, it is so clear to me that this is our path forward in education. Whether it is with an organization, as an individual, with time or with donations, any time you spend spreading love to children will bring you love in return. So this school year, I am here to rally everyone! We need you!
2024 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year
East Baton Rouge Parish School System
First Grade Teacher
ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies
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