Gonzales — Teaching special education classes in an elementary school was not Pam Hughes’ first career choice.
The 2013 state Department of Education Regional Teacher of the Year honoree started out her teaching career as a high school business teacher and basketball coach.
However, she decided to take a special education job several years ago when the school didn’t have a business program.
“Life got me to here,” she said during a ceremony May 10 honoring the 25-year teaching veteran. “I definitely didn’t choose this; it chose me.”
Hughes, who is a lead teacher at Pecan Grove Primary School, was honored with a surprise party hosted by the school and Blue Bell Creameries.
As students ate vanilla ice cream from small containers in the school’s cafeteria, Principal Marjorie Meyers made the announcement that the party wasn’t really a teacher appreciation event as they had told Hughes.
Meyers said Blue Bell Creameries contacted her to “celebrate Ms. Hughes’ accomplishments at Pecan Grove.”
Blue Bell representatives arrived with a truck filled with ice cream for the students and teachers and four half-gallon containers of Hughes’ favorite flavor — Cookies ’n’ Cream.
“I was really surprised,” Hughes said as children hugged and thanked her for her contributions to the school.
Hughes said teaching “is still rewarding every day.”
Hughes, a graduate of Live Oak High School, praised the teachers, staff and students she works with at the school.
“This (the regional teacher of the year award) is a reflection of what we all do here at Pecan Grove every day,” she said.
Hughes is one of eight regional finalists for the state elementary teacher of the year award.
The teachers will be honored during the Sixth annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium Celebration in July, according to a news release from the Louisiana Department of Education. In addition, the middle school teachers, high school teachers and principals of the year also will be named.
“At Blue Bell, we believe there is no finer work you can do in this world than be a teacher,” Paul Kruse, president of Blue Bell Creameries, said in a letter to Hughes.
“The finalists for Louisiana Teacher of the Year are among the most outstanding members of their profession. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to honor Ms. Hughes for her wonderful work,” Kruse said.
“We want to recognize not only Ms. Hughes, but the entire student body and staff at Pecan Grove Primary School,” he said. “Part of our purpose is to remind all the students how fortunate they are to have Ms. Hughes and such dedicated teachers with them every day.”