Cory Joy Craig
Music Teacher and Band Director at Benton Intermediate School in Bossier Parish Schools 2024
Louisiana Middle School Teacher of the Year
Grammy Nominee for Music Educator of the Year in 2022, 2023, and 2024
Louisiana Tech University School of Music Alumnus of the Year for 2022
Louisiana Music Education Association’s Outstanding Young Music Educator of the Year Award in 2019
Middle School Band Director of the Year in LMEA District VIII in 2017 and 2023
Personal Website :www.coryjoycraig.com
Facebook-Cory Joy Craig
Going Beyond the Classroom: The Transformative Role of Love and Kindness in Education, Foster Care and Music
Imagine being a 911 operator in Southern California in 1991, answering yet another call, but this time you pick up the phone to babbling and crying babies. The temptation is to end the call; it could have been an accident or little kids playing with a landline. This particular operator traced the call to a condo and decided to send officers to make sure nothing nefarious had happened. The choice to act affected the lives of three babies who were found neglected, malnourished, abused and alone, eventually altering the lives of the seven children who would come from that home. I was the one-year-old who played with the phone and accidentally made the call; however, it was the responses time and time again from people choosing discernment, kindness, compassion and love that not only saved my siblings and me from that abuse but helped us press on through the damage and become statistic breakers, teaching us to extend the same love shown to us.
November 30 was our “rescue” anniversary, and I cannot help but look back in gratitude to the key people who helped me survive and thrive: elementary teachers, my foster parents, and an inspirational band director. We are absolutely the culmination of the extended kindness and compassion shown to us. Just think about it. Did you have a support system of people in your life who helped in small and mighty ways? Pushed you through school? Fed you? Put a roof over your head? Encouraged you to go to college? Helped you buy your first uniform, car or home? Gave you a ride to church or your job? Helped babysit so you could get to that job? None of us would be where we are without those family members, friends, church members, teachers, social workers and oftentimes complete strangers going out of their way sacrificially.
By extending our support, we can pave the way for others to be successful and have bright futures. In Louisiana, I see many people recognize the transformative power of loving and helping others, especially our students, beyond the classroom. I want to share who these people are in my life to encourage you to see yourself in one of them or one day as one of them, impacting the sphere around you.The Mighty Impact of Elementary Teachers
Tia M. Trahan, M.Ed
2024 Louisiana State Principal of the Year
Lafayette Middle School
Principal, Lafayette Parish School System
National Board Certified Teacher
Leading with Love is the Golden Key
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote screams the climate and culture of our great state of Louisiana! As Louisianans, we have a charming reputation for being welcoming and hospitable-showering our visitors with delicious food, great music, exciting adventures and friendly smiles. This incredible sentiment is something that is replicated in schools and classrooms across our great state.
Growing up in a low socio-economic, rural community in Lacombe, Louisiana, my small town had no caution lights, fast-food restaurants, high school, and no one verbally communicating they loved you—at least not in my household. In contrast, what my town did have was an elementary and junior high school, a fire station, a post office, and most memorably, it had a diverse population of people who genuinely loved each other—visible in actions—not words. That is how it was in my household.
I will never forget the day in July 1990, sitting under the giant oak tree in the front yard of my small, childhood wood-frame home when my dad’s boss pulled up in our gravel driveway. As he stepped out of his vehicle, tears rolled down my eyes. You see, my dad had passed away a few days before, and his boss was there to pick up his work truck. Before walking into the house to see my mom, he stopped to talk tome. He told me although he had never personally met me, he felt he had known me for years. He then handed me a double photo frame with two pictures of me he had taken off of my dad’s desk. He shared how proud my dad was of me and how his face lit up whenever he talked about my accomplishments. Without actually saying it, I felt it was being communicated that my dad loved me. From that point on, I always, in both words and actions, communicate my love for others. I not only take this approach in my personal life, but it is the approach I take in leading my school. I lead with LOVE—I choose to Listen, Observe, Value and Empower. The impact of leading with LOVE is golden! These four actions are two fold: they foster a cohesive culture and serve as connectors inbuilding strong trusting relationships among educational leaders, teachers, and students.
In all aspects of our lives, we feel the most valued when someone attentively listens as we verbally express our thoughts, feelings and opinions. As educational leaders and teachers, we should listen to our predecessors for us to strengthen our relationships and grow our craft. We should build on the foundation of structures already in place. We should listen to other experienced educators—they are a great resource. Collectively, the insight gained is infinite! Educational leaders, meet with your teachers and let them do most of the talking; this affords you the opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level-both personally and professionally. Educational leaders and teachers, listen to your students; it is amazing what you will learn! Most importantly, listen to your mind and heart, and let them guide you.
Oftentimes, unspoken language speaks louder than words. It is imperative that, as educational leaders and teachers, we familiarize ourselves with the body language of our students and each other. This language speaks volumes! Educational leaders, observe your teachers in their classrooms as they prepare for instruction and how they interact with colleagues in professional learning communities. Make a conscious effort to observe student demeanors as you greet them in the morning and throughout the day. Get to know their norms. Observe how students are greeted by teachers as they enter the classroom and participate in class discussions. Teachers observe how students interact with each other. Observe how they respond when you call on them to read or answer questions. This can communicate if they are an extrovert or introvert. It can also communicate if students are struggling with content or are an accelerated learner.
Value the climate and culture of the school, as this speaks volumes about who you are as a school family. This feeling is the invisible light that illuminates the halls for students, faculty, staff and visitors. It is a light that can be seen and felt from the moment someone enters your school. Value the knowledge and wisdom of veteran teachers who have been at the school. Value the innovative ideas of novice teachers. Conduct a needs survey of all stakeholders and value the feedback, both favorable and unfavorable. Be receptive and make it a priority to attend to the needs shared.
Empowering others builds confidence, strengthens capacity and elevates individual potential. As educational leaders, we have a responsibility to empower both our teachers and students to take ownership of their strengths and growth areas. We must believe in others even if they do not believe in themselves! We must create opportunities for them to take the lead, thus prompting a better sense of belonging and purpose. When we encourage this practice, you will learn, grow and evolve as a school family. You will come across roadblocks, but give yourself grace. Embrace each moment by listening, observing, valuing and empowering. Leading with LOVE and putting the needs of children first will build relationships and provide you with the Golden Key to a successful school year and many more to come.