Head of the class
Judy Stewart is pictured here with her family in front of a wall inside The Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., that bears the names of the alumni who were named to the Hall of Distinguished Educators. She along with other alumni were inducted on October 21. Pictured here in the back is Bart Stewart, Jr., and from left to right in the front are Bart Stewart, Sr., Candace Frazier, Judy Stewart, and Jeff Stewart. (Photo courtesy of Candace Frazier)
By: TONY MARKS
The Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., has recognized alumni who have shown outstanding professional achievements. Since its inception in 2000, the Hall of Distinguished Educators has welcomed over 70 of these alumni through its doors. The number grew again this year as five alumni were inducted during the university’s Homecoming weekend on October 21 including a former educator who taught at Vidrine.
“It was really the highlight of my career,” said Judy Stewart about getting inducted into the Hall. “It was unexpected because my family and coworkers and friends are the ones who nominated me, and they surprised me with the nomination. They had been working on it for six months, and I didn’t realize it.”
“They submitted my name and my qualifications,” she continued. “It was not until the summertime in July when I found out about it, and then in August I found out that I had been chosen as one of the five. It was really quite humbling to be chosen as one of the finalist and then to be chosen for the Hall.”
She went on to say that seeing her name on the wall after the induction ceremonies was amazing and surreal. “I had to pinch myself to make myself believe it was really happening,” Stewart said. “I had family and friends who showed up to support me during the ceremonies.”
Stewart’s career has spanned over 37 years and 10 parishes in the state as she has taught Kindergarten through 12th Grade in public and private school systems and has allowed to her travel the state tutoring fourth grade students who had not passed the Math LEAP test.
“I have a background in all of the grades, and I’m familiar with the education system in different areas of the state,” she said. “That has helped me, I think, in my teaching to be able to travel around and see what it’s like in the classroom in each one of the areas of the state.”
After receiving her degree in math from Northwestern State University in 1976, Stewart took graduate classes at McNeese State University and the University Louisiana-Lafayette from 1982-86.
She first taught at Lacassine which was a K-12 school. She said, “We had some awesome students there who were always very competitive and very motivated, and their end of the year test scores were always very high.”
Later in her career, Stewart taught 7th and 8th Grade Math at Vidrine Middle School and Algebra I and Algebra II at Vidrine High School from 1990 through 1996.
“That was one of the best times of my career,” she exclaimed. “It was so special because it was a small rural community, and all of the people in that community supported the school well. They all felt like family. I loved the people in Vidrine. I just had some of my best friends there, and some of my most awesome students came from Vidrine. I still miss some of the people from Vidrine and the Evangeline Parish area.”
She recounted a situation that showed how special her time was at Vidrine. She along with some her students “were asked one time whenever we went to a math tournament if we were a private school because the kids were so bright and just so competitive and self-motivated.” She added, “I said no and that we just have a wonderful community of supporters, and I said our students are awesome.”
Stewart is still in the classroom teaching Eighth Grade math at Broussard Elementary in Broussard, La., where she lives with her husband Bart Stewart, Sr. The two have three children; Candace Frazier, Bart Stewart, Jr., and Jeff Stewart; and have nine grandchildren who all live in the Broussard area.
Joining Stewart this year in the Hall of Distinguished Educators were Billy Crawford of New Orleans, Dr. Larry Gracie of Oriental, North Carolina; Dr. Steve Horton, and Dr. Connie Melder of Natchitoches. Sedrick Clark of Gladewater, Texas, and Jeffrey Powell of Plaquemine were the Young Professionals.
“It really means a lot for my family and friends to do this and nominate me this for me, and I appreciate it a lot,” she concluded.