Educators of the year thank families, students, mentors during ceremony

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Kelli Carruth Welch, named the Rapides Parish high school principal of the year for her work at Northwood High School, mingles after the ceremony.
Kelli Carruth Welch, named the Rapides Parish high school principal of the year for her work at Northwood High School, mingles after the ceremony.

Most of the Rapides Parish educators honored Thursday evening gave their thanks — through tears or humor — to their families, students and others who helped them in their careers.

The teachers, assistant principals and principals of the year were acknowledged during a ceremony at Alexandria Convention Hall as soft Christmas music played in the background.

They called their schools hidden gems and the best-kept secret in the parish. They thanked fellow teachers, coworkers and mentors. And many mentioned their students.

Northwood High School had double honors, taking both the assistant principal and principal of the year in the high school category.

Justin Knowlton, named elementary school teacher of the year, was grateful for the opportunity to work with his students at Ball Elementary School and hoped he could "change kids' lives for the better."

Jessica Waits, named middle school teacher of the year, said she was overwhelmed by the honor while joking she also wasn't prepared to make public remarks. She struggled not to cry after talking about her "amazing" students, administration and coworkers at Rapides Academy.

"I couldn't do what I do without the great support that I have," she said. "I'm just one person that is surrounded by a huge support system that helps me to do what I do. I'm so proud to represent you."

Educators of the year in Rapides Parish were honored Thursday evening during a ceremony at the Alexandria Convention Hall.
Educators of the year in Rapides Parish were honored Thursday evening during a ceremony at the Alexandria Convention Hall.

Amy Holley of Pineville High School was named high school teacher of the year. She thanked her husband, family and friends for their support and encouragement.

"To our students, our Rebel kids, y'all are the best part of what we do so we thank you so much for the joy you bring us every day," she said.

Martin Park Elementary School's Heather Litton, the elementary school assistant principal of the year, thanked her husband and son for their sacrifices "so I can do what I love to do."

The middle school assistant principal of the year, Forest Hill Junior High School's Christine Gatlin, thanked her family for going without many homecooked meals when she works long hours.

"Without your love and support, I wouldn't be here, and I appreciate you."

Bob Stevens, named middle school principal of the year for his work at Poland Junior High School, shared his award.

"I work at a wonderful place. We call it the best-kept secret in Rapides Parish. I have an amazing group of teachers. This is their award," he said.

Kelli Carruth Welch, high school principal of the year for her work at Northwood High, said nobody wants to go through another year like the last one with the pandemic, two hurricanes and an ice storm.

But she said teachers learned how to adapt.

"There's not an administrator in this room who wouldn't say how important the dedication of their staff was this past year," she said. "I feel like this award is for all those dedicated to the field of education."

She asked all educators in the room to stand "because you are the heroes from last year."

Here are all the honorees:

Teachers of the year

Justin Knowlton, Ball Elementary School

Jessica Waits, Rapides Academy

Amy Holley, Pineville High School

Assistant principals of the year

Heather Litton, Martin Park Elementary School

Christine Gatlin, Forest Hill Junior High School

Tera LaPrarie, Northwood High School

Principals of the year

Ceceilia Montiel, Mary Goff Elementary School

Bob Stevens, Poland Junior High School

Kelli Carruth Welch, Northwood High School

School-level teachers of the year, elementary school

Natalie Deville, Acadian Elementary School

Stephanie Ford, Alma Redwine Elementary School

Justin Knowlton, Ball Elementary School

Dana Peart, Buckeye Elementary School

Gaynell Byrd, Caroline Dormon Junior High School

Tara Perkins, Carter C. Raymond Elementary School

Jessica LeBlanc, Cherokee Elementary School

Angel David, D.F. Huddle Elementary School

Ann Mitchell, Forest Hill Junior High School

Megan Richardson, Glenmora High School

Carrie Bignar, Hayden R. Lawrence Upper Elementary School

Anita Sidney, Horseshoe Elementary School

Margaret Laborde, J.B. Nachman Elementary School

Bridget Smith, J.I. Barron Elementary School

Kayla Tullos, Lessie Moore Elementary School

Kerstian Stanley, L.S. Rugg Elementary School

Tomeka Rucker, Martin Park Elementary School

Sarah Tyler, Mary Goff Elementary School

Sara Lachney, Mabel Brasher Montessori Elementary School

Teshira Minor, Northwood High School

Carrie Farmer, Oak Hill High School

Monica Nelson, Paradise Elementary School

Myra Williams, Peabody Montessori School

Rokeisha Randle, Phoenix Magnet Elementary School

Margaret Norman, Pineville Elementary School

Brittany Bailey Maricle, Plainview High School

Desiree Colton, Poland Junior High School

Carol Kelly, Rosenthal Montessori Elementary School

Melissa Coates, Ruby Wise Elementary School

Pam Iles, Tioga Elementary School

School-level teachers of the year, junior high/middle school

Jennah Johnson, Alexandria Middle Magnet School

Stacey Baker, Arthur F. Smith Middle Magnet School

Roberta Jones, Buckeye High School

Shanna Mitchell, Oak Hill High School

Scott Spurgeon, Pineville Junior High School

Jessica Waits, Rapides Academy

Brittany Dean, Scott M. Brame Junior High School

Holley Pace, Tioga Junior High School

School-level teachers of the year, high school

Amanda Iles, Alexandria Senior High School

Sharon Hammond, Bolton High School

Kasi LaPrarie, Buckeye High School

Ellise Odom, Glenmora High School

Tabitha Kerik, Northwood High School

Jeff Eddlemon, Oak Hill High School

James Carter, Peabody Magnet High School

Amy Holley, Pineville High School

Katherine Willis, Plainview High School

Anne-Catherine Jagneaux, Rapides High School

Greta Saunders, RAPPS

Vicki Roberts, Rapides Training Academy

Joshua Wiggins, Rapides Virtual Program

Dawn Stevens, Tioga High School

This article originally appeared on Alexandria Town Talk: Rapides educators of year thank families, students, mentors

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