Jenkins also regional finalist at elementary level
Three East Baton Rouge Parish teachers were named 2013 teachers of the year Tuesday, citing high expectations, developing relationships and real-life problem solving as reasons for their success.
Sabrina Dixon Jenkins, a fifth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary; Corie McKinley Buras, an eighth-grade Louisiana history teacher at Southeast Middle School; and Ni’Shawn Leneigh Stovall, a math teacher at Belaire High School, received plaques and gifts in recognition of the honor.
An awards ceremony, sponsored by the drug prevention and crisis counseling group I CARE, took place at the school system’s Instructional Resource Center on South Foster Drive.
Jenkins also has been named by the Louisiana Department of Education as one of eight regional Teacher of the Year finalists at the elementary level.
Jenkins, who has been teaching four years, said high standards drive her teaching philosophy.
“I hold myself to a high standard,” she said. “I have high expectations for my students, not only that they will reach but that they will surpass.”
That trait was instilled in Jenkins by her own sixth-grade teacher in Little Rock, Ark., Angela McGee, who taught Jenkins that “mediocrity was not an option.”
McGee “expected and demanded our best,” Jenkins said. “And we respected her so much.”
Jenkins said she must help the students overcome self- and society-imposed labels and to gain self-confidence.
“I am trying to get them to change their mentality,” she said.
Jenkins said sometimes it’s the students who teach her, recalling one particular class trip to Six Flags Amusement Park in Atlanta.
A student on the trip was terrified to go on a roller coaster, Jenkins said, but the young girl was determined to do it.
“She said, ‘I am scared, but I am going to go,’ ” Jenkins said. “That inspired me.”
For Buras, teaching revolves around developing a relationship with her students from the start.
“I try to know who my students are,” she said. “I do a lot of ‘get to know you’ activities in the first few weeks.”
Buras said knowing her students as people helps her tailor teaching to fit individuals, something that can be a challenge in teaching history.
“I do as much hands-on stuff as possible,” she said, describing her teaching style as “interactive.”
Buras, a seven-year veteran of the classroom, said that while middle school students can be a challenge, they need love and care.
She cited a social studies teacher she had in high school as an inspiration who helped guide her into the classroom.
Buras carries a note in her purse that one of her students gave her during her first year in the classroom.
“He brought me two cookies wrapped in a paper towel with a note,” she said. The cookies were a Christmas present, Buras said, and the student acknowledged that it was a small gift, but wrote “I hope you will accept my cookies.”
When asked what she teaches, Stovall is firm in her answer.
“I teach students,” Stovall said.
Subject-wise, Stovall teaches Algebra I to ninth-graders at Belaire High School.
“My grandmother was a teacher, several of my aunts were teachers,” she said. “Teaching is just in my blood.”
It can be difficult to convince kids that math and science skills are necessary, Stovall said.
“I let them know that I believe it’s the most important thing,” she said. “It matters in our daily lives.”
To illustrate that for students, Stovall often gives them real-life problems, asking them questions related to time, or how they got to school that day, forcing them to use math to solve real-life problems, she said.
Stovall said the greatest satisfaction comes from watching students transition from doubting themselves to believing they can do well in math and science.
“The students were excited that they passed (end-of-course testing)” she said. “I think some of them were surprised.”
Each winner was selected from a pool of finalists after each school in the parish nominated one teacher for the award. Jenkins was chosen from a pool of six finalists and Buras and Stovall from pools of three finalists each.