Ville Platte High School teacher Kayren Ortego interacts with students. The Ville Platte native has taught for 34 years, and she teaches English IV, Senior Applications in English, and Dual Enrollment English 1001/1002. (Gazette photo by Claudette Olivier)
Mamou Elementary third grade teacher Kelli Schatzle poses outside of her class. The Eunice native is in her third year of teaching, and Mamou Elementary is the first school she has taught at since graduating college. (Gazette photo by Claudette Olivier)
By: CLAUDETTE OLIVIER
Kelli Schatzle, Tim Comeaux and Kayren Ortego have been named Evangeline Parish’s Teachers of the Year.
Schatzle, a third grade teacher at Mamou Elementary, is the parish’s elementary school Teacher of the Year, and Comeaux, a sixth through eighth grade science teacher at Chataignier Elementary, was selected as middle school Teacher of the Year. Ortego, a twelfth grade teacher at Ville Platte High School, was selected as high school Teacher of the Year.
Schatzle, a native and resident of Eunice, is in her third year of teaching, and Mamou Elementary is the first school she has taught at since graduating college. Schatzle teaches ELA (English Language Arts), math, science and social studies.
“This year I started to really enjoy teaching social studies and Louisiana history,” Schatzle said. “As a student, I do not remember much Louisiana history being taught.
“I am very interested in all things history which is probably why I enjoy teaching it so much. I also believe that our students need to know where they came from. I enjoy involving the community in our Louisiana history lessons.”
Schatzle said an experience in the first grade started her on the path to becoming a teacher.
She said, “One thing I have always remembered about my elementary school days was when I was out sick from school in first grade. My teacher made it a point to write me a get well letter and sent it home with my work. She made a difference with just a small gesture. That is why I decided to become a teacher. I want to make differences in students’ lives. I want to be the teacher they remember because of the letters sent home, meaningful activities and the feeling they get when they enter my classroom.”
Schatzle’s funniest moment as a teacher happened on her first day in her chosen career.
“It is the first day where I am responsible for the 25 little faces sitting in front of me,” Schatzle said. “I close my door and get started with all the cute first-day-of-school activities I have planned. I am nervous and feel like a chicken with my head cut off.”
Schatzle and her students completed a few of the day’s activities, and lunchtime rolled around.
“I am standing in front of my class explaining how the next activity will go, taking my time and explaining every step, when someone raises their hand,” Schatzle said. “No one has raised their hand all day. No one had any questions until this student raised their hand.
“They raise their hand and asked me, ‘Ms. Kelli, can you call David and Lori’s and order me a hamburger for lunch?’ It took everything I had not to bust out laughing. All I could do was tell them, ‘Let’s discuss the activity we are about to start.’
She continued, “In the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘This is exactly why I am going to love my career.’ Children are so innocent, yet you are there to steer them in the right direction.”
As a teacher, Schatzle said she sets many goals for her students.
“My two most important goals that I set at the beginning of every year is for students to become independent learners and for all students to be successful,” she said. “In this society, students need to be able to question concepts and form inferences based on the information studied.”
Schatzle said she was very honored to be named teacher of the year at Mamou Elementary, but being named Teacher of the Year at the parish level was an even greater feeling.
“It is one thing to be recognized by the people you work with on a daily basis, but to be recognized by others outside of your work environment is a different feeling,” she said. “It really makes you feel like the work you do means something to others as well. It is a great feeling when your work is noticed by others.”
Schatzle credited her faith, family, faculty and administrators for getting her to where she is today.
Comeaux was born in Lafayette, but was raised in Eunice. Comeaux has taught for 12 years, the last five at Chataignier Elementary. He teaches Physical Science to sixth grade students, Life Science to seventh grade students, and Earth and Space Science to eighth grade students.
Comeaux used to tell others his favorite thing about teaching was the summer break.
“It always gets a laugh but I was drawn to teaching because I don’t think there is a more powerful and rewarding job on the planet,” he said. “I have an opportunity to shape the minds of our future. I get to plant seeds of knowledge that will create a great harvest for the future of the students and the communities in which they will live.”
Comeaux said his goal as a teacher is to be the biggest learner in the class.
“I’m always looking for better ways to reach every student,” he said. “The world and education are always changing and if I’m unwilling to grow and change, I will not be an effective teacher. Lastly always enjoy what you do and make the most of every opportunity to make a difference in a students’ life.”
One of the things Comeaux has learned is that dressing the part when teaching is a good way to get the students involved in class, and his “Reggie the Space Man” got the attention of not only a new student, but the student’s parents as well.
“The staff at our school walked the student and his parents down to my room to introduce them to his new teacher,” Comeaux said. “I’m sure when the door opened they were expecting to see a professionally dressed educator but instead out walked ‘Reggie.’ Both the kid and the parents were a bit shocked. The student quickly moved behind his mom.
“After a bit of reassuring the student realized that Reggie wasn’t a bad guy he was willing to come in and join the class.”
Ortego, a native and resident of Vile Platte, has taught for 34 years, and she teaches English IV, Senior Applications in English, and Dual Enrollment English 1001/1002.
The idea of pursuing a career as be a teacher did not come to Ortego’s mind until after she had finished high school.
“I think teaching found me,” she said. “When I entered college, becoming a teacher was not my plan, however, I found myself in a classroom. It didn’t happen right away, but soon I fell in love with my job and knew this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life.”
Ortego said her goals as a teacher are simple — success for her students, her school, and her colleagues.
Like Schatzle, Ortego said her students often make her laugh as she leads the classroom.
“I think I have the most fun and the most laughs when I am teaching anything that has to do with language,” she said. “Just this week I taught my English IV students how to insult one another using words invented by William Shakespeare. Needless to say, we all had a ball and the students connected the origins slang and insulting words they use every day of their lives.”
Ortego thanked her colleagues, administrators, students, the community, and the staff for making Ville Plate High the best it can be.
“We still have work to do, but we are moving forward,” she said. “I love working with these professionals and we have some of the best and brightest students in the parish walking the halls of Old Ville Platte High School.
Evangeline Parish School Board Assistant Superintendent and newly selected superintendent Darwan Lazard said, “They are representative of the many hardworking, dedicated teachers of the Evangeline Parish School system. I am proud of what they have accomplished and to be selected by their peers at the school level and then to be recognized at the parish level. It is indicative of the excellence they exhibit in the classroom every day.
“I look forward to them competing at the next level.”