Educators honored for excellence by local A&M Club

Linda Rose Fulton
Gwendolyn M. Sharp
Letasha Louise Brachett
Jeffrey Todd Nelson
Tiffany Nicole Woodall
Cassandra Colbert Ceaser
Karen Steward Neild
Kimberly Renee Tolin
Mikki Lynn Sciba

Surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and admirers, nine Beaumont school teachers were celebrated like the superstars they are when the Beaumont A&M Club presented its 58th annual Outstanding Teacher Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Award chairman Michael Wolf said that each of the honorees, “outstanding individuals” every one, were nominated by their fellow teachers. “And the Beaumont A&M Club is privileged to honor them for their achievements in the field of education,” he added. “Indeed, this annual awards ceremony honors all of the many Beaumont teachers who have accepted the responsibility for inspiring and educating the future leaders of this community.”

Each of the A&M Outstanding Teachers received a check for $200 from the John K. Mattingly Memorial Fund, a certificate of recognition and a silver tray.

Meet the teachers

Linda Rose Fulton of Pietzsch-MacArthur Elementary School became a teacher 29 years ago because she had some incredible teachers of her own, she said. Raised in a single-parent home of modest means, Fulton overcame challenges to excel in her studies because of a network of educators who fostered in her a drive to succeed – and now she wants to be that drive for a future generation.

“I wanted to instill the hope that I had into children as teacher the same way my teachers instilled hope in me,” she said. “I am most proud of those who have become teachers. Without caring teachers, none of the other occupations would be possible.”

Gwendolyn M. Sharp of Marshall Middle School has drawn on her meager beginnings in life to build a wealth of experience and knowledge in her 18 years as an educator in Beaumont ISD – spirited on by her desire to pay forward the inspiration teachers gave her back then.

“I was surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence,” Sharp remembers of her youth, “yet my teachers made me believe that I was going to be successful. ... I was oblivious to the opportunities that existed outside of the projects where I grew up, but my teachers ignited a passion in me.”

Letasha Louise Brachett of the Paul A. Brown Learning Center is a 1990 Beaumont ISD grad who has spent the last decade or so honing her craft, which she says is a lifelong learning process.

“I believe that teaching provides an opportunity for continual learning and growth,” she said. “One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students, as I share my own passion for learning with them. I feel there is a need for compassionate, strong and dedicated individuals who are excited about working with children. In our competitive society, it is important for students to not only receive a solid education, but to work with someone who is aware of and sensitive to their individual needs.”

Jeffrey Todd Nelson of Central Medical Magnet High School has been a teacher and a coach for 21 years. Coach Nelson’s playbook has an all-encompassing theme when it comes to not only teaching, he said, but life in general: “All students can be successful.”

“Let them know that you care and they will learn,” he said of pupils trusted to educators. “Teach students as if they are all your own children.”

Tiffany Nacole Woodall of West Brook High School has been an educator at the same campus for all 12 years of her career. Currently in the discipline of special education, Woodall stresses that numerical data and test scores aren’t all that make a student successful.

“Success comes in many shapes and forms,” she said, “but true success is not measured by numbers, it is measured in the character of each child.”

Cassandra Colbert Ceasar of Clifton J. Ozen Magnet High School graduated from the school where she now teaches in 2001. Nearly five years into her career, Ceasar has noted one of the main hindrances to some children’s education is access to supplies necessary to complete their studies.

“As a teacher, I see students come to school yearly that do not have school supplies,” she said, which is why she participates in supply drives like one run through her church. “It breaks my heart to see a child desire to be part of something that circumstances prohibit them from participating in. School should never be one of those things.”

Karen Steward Neild of the Taylor Career Center has been a teacher for 28 years, many of those served at the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center (MRJJC ), where she said she learned as much as she taught once she recognized early on that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to this very complex educational environment.

“As a teacher of students ages 10-17, fourth – 12th grade (sometimes all in one class), it was my privilege to be the facilitator of knowledge to a unique population and a captive class of incarcerated students,” she said, adding that it wasn’t always easy. “Every day was a new challenge with new students and new experiences – a challenge I greeted with an eager anticipation and creative willpower to be a facilitator of knowledge for at-risk students.

“In more ways than one, I realized I had a new captive audience in my classroom every day and I needed to make every minute count. Every day I focused my time and energy on what mattered most – the students’ education and their desire to receive one.”

Kimberly Renee Tolin of St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica School is a 16-year veteran educator who believes it is a teacher’s position to be a role model and an inspiration to her students.

“The teacher should create a classroom that is caring and one where students feel safe and comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings,” she said. “It is the teacher’s job to make learning meaningful and engaging for the student.”

Mikki Lynn Sciba of Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School has a three-fold teaching philosophy she has cultivated over 10 years as an educator.

Rule No. 1, she says, is “to treat each student with respect and do my best to make them aware of their inherent dignity and value. No. 2, to promote an environment of joy in the classroom, and No. 3, to meet each student where they are and encourage personal growth to become the best version of themselves.

“My whole goal in teaching is hopefully to inspire. I want those who leave my classroom to leave happier and more aware of the greatness they have to bring to the world. But I must be honest, my students are the ones who inspire me!”