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Conner named DeRidder High School Teacher of the Year

Posted Date: 11/22/2021

Connie Conner, chemistry and Forensic Science teacher at DeRidder High School, believes that students learn best when they are in a positive learning environment.

“From the first day of school, I try to develop relationships with my students by listening, talking, and showing and earning respect,” she said. “A successful learning environment is built upon the development of these personal connections.”

She believes that all students have the ability to learn, but not necessarily at the same pace each day. Part of successful teaching is finding the approach that works best for each student while affording them multiple chances to succeed.

Connie Conner TOY“I try to reach all students by using multiple avenues of instruction,” she explained, “for example, experimentation, group work, peer tutoring, and lecturing.”

Students have the opportunity for hands-on projects and labs interspersed with more traditional forms of instruction and interaction with peers to provide a wide variety of ways to experience the information and practice the skills for lessons in her classroom.

Conner is inspired by the words of Robert Heinlein: “When one teaches, two learn.”

When she teaches, she is also aware of her need to learn. She seeks out better ways to explain the material and new strategies to help the students understand.

“We learn through interacting with others,” she says. “Over the years, I have continued to grow and learn, not just content and methodology, but also from my students.”

Conner is the 2021-2022 DeRidder High School Teacher of the Year. She teaches Chemistry I & II and Forensic Science to tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade students, and has been teaching at the school for the past ten years.

Conner has been an educator for 31 years, teaching previously at Monroe and Reeves, LA, as well as at South Beauregard High School. She has taught sixth grade General Science, seventh grade Life Science, eighth grade Earth Science, ninth-grade Physical Science, tenth-grade Biology, and twelfth-grade Physics.

She is a mentor teacher as well as the Varsity Cheer Sponsor and Student Council Sponsor at the school.

She has been a Science Club Sponsor, Science Fair Coordinator, Science Night Coordinator, Literary Rally Sponsor, and Dance Team Sponsor in her previous years in education.

She is a Louisiana Environmental Literacy Plan Contributor for the 2020 rewrite and is Secretary of the Louisiana Environmental Commission. She has been a participant in the Native Fish in the Classroom program and in the Coastal Roots Program – LSU.

She has been the DeRidder High School Teacher of the Year (2014, 2021), the Allen Parish High School Teacher of the Year (2008), the Allen Parish Junior High Teacher of the Year (2001), and the Louisiana Science Teachers’ Association High School Teacher of the Year (2005).

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry Education from McNeese State University and has certifications in biology, physics, general science, and computer literacy, and as a mentor teacher.

Her favorite aspect of teaching is seeing the changes in students throughout the year. She enjoys those “light bulb” moments when students understand a concept with which they have been struggling.

“Each day I reflect on the day and find joy in a student’s success or growth,” she said. “I hope in some way I have had an impact and made a difference for my students.”

Her advice to new educators is to find a work/family balance and not try to do it all. She insists that building relationships with students is one of the most important things a teacher can do because it is the foundation of classroom management. She encourages her peers to review their lessons and refine as they learn.

She states that teachers need the support of school administration, school board officials, parents, and the community to do their jobs well. She wants stakeholders to realize that the role expected of teachers has changed dramatically over the years, demanding flexibility, new strategies for teaching, learning, and classroom management for a wide variety of learners from differing backgrounds.

            “Teachers are willing to do what it takes to educate our students in this ever-changing environment,” she explained, “however, we need respect for what we do, for our time to be protected to do it properly, and we need support to do it well.”

Conner wants her students to realize their potential, and she finds ways to motivate them to find the joy and value in struggling with a problem or concept and pushing through to find the solution.

“The reason I teach is to share my love of learning and chemistry with my students,” she concluded. “It is what I am meant to do.”