Jun 26, 2019

Iberia Parish Educator to Spend Next School Year Focused on Improving Early Learning through Play

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Education today announced 2019 Elementary School Teacher of the Year Tasha Jolivette-Jones, of Iberia Parish, has been awarded the Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship for the 2019-2020 school year. Jolivette-Jones, who was recognized during the opening session of the 2019 Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit, will spend the next year focusing on how schools and teachers can foster better early learning through play.

"I would like to see a return to active, student-centered learning in kindergarten," wrote Jolivette-Jones, who teaches kindergarten at Coteau Elementary School, in her application. "Better known as play, this practice allows children to make choices, improve physical dexterity, explore interests, and experiment safely while developing the social-emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life."

"I hope to establish a framework for child-centered learning that supports rigorous standards in kindergarten without sacrificing developmentally appropriate practice," she continued. "My goal is to create a model, establish a system of support, and then promote play throughout my school district."

Launched in 2018, the Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship allows one educator, selected from the previous year's list of Louisiana Teacher of the Year finalists following a competitive application process, to spend a school year advocating for an education initiative of their choosing. 

The fellowship is supported by a $50,000 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.

"Play is essential to early education," said State Superintendent John White. "We must ensure children are afforded opportunities to explore their world and build relationships through play. We are thrilled to have Tasha serve as an ambassador for this initiative, and we look forward to learning from her work."

"Tasha Jolivette-Jones is an excellent teacher leader and truly deserves the opportunity to explore her passion for stimulating young minds," said Iberia Parish School System Superintendent Carey Laviolette.

The inaugural fellowship was awarded to Kimberly Eckert, 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, who spent the 2018-2019 school year recruiting and training the next generation of educators by 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.
"This past year was nothing short of transformative," Eckert said. "Taking the year to delve into the heart of 'grow your own' programs allowed me to help brilliant young people not only harness the power of their voices, but also view teaching in the 21st Century as a powerful profession and direct link to how we change the world. Being able to connect with other teachers, school leaders, districts, universities and community members all looking to re-envision ways to elevate teaching and recruit dynamic high school students looking to be difference makers in their communities has been the best experience of my life. I look forward to seeing how this pilot work continues across our state and how Louisiana continues to lead in the field of 'grow your own' programs."
Jolivette-Jones's fellowship will end at the close of the 2019-2020 school year, as the Department prepares to announce the 2021 Louisiana Teacher of the Year. At that time, the Department will begin the process of selecting the next fellow. All 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year finalists will be eligible and will be asked to submit a joint application with their school system that details which education initiative they would promote if chosen.


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