Fort Polk hosted a celebration of excellence in education May 3 at the Showboat Theatre as Vernon Parish School District students, teachers and principals of the year for 2018 were honored.

The event spotlighted nine individuals — three in each category representing high school, junior high/middle school and elementary school.

The winners were as follows:

• High School Principal of the Year — Johnny Bosley, Rosepine High School

• Junior High/Middle School Principal of the Year — Angel Williams, Leesville Junior High School

• Elementary School Principal of the Year — Leigh Lansdale, Pickering Elementary School

• High School Teacher of the Year — Kristen Bruce, Pickering High School

• Junior High/Middle School Teacher of the Year — Brandi Frey, Rosepine Junior High School

• Elementary Teacher of the Year — Mary Ian McDonald, West Leesville Elementary School

• High School Student of the Year — Casey Sakai Williams, Leesville High School

• Junior High/Middle School Student of the Year — Matthew Christensen, Rosepine Junior High School

• Elementary School Student of the Year — Aurora Bauer, Rosepine Elementary School

Each recipient received the commanding general’s certificate of achievement which stated that their high standards for achievement and academics contributes to the success of the Education Initiative and Louisiana’s pursuit to deliver higher standards of learning.

Guest speaker Mike Reese is the Fort Polk Progress chairman. Fort Polk Progress, according to its website, is a regional community organization that maintains relationships with decision makers on a local, state and national level to ensure that up to date information concerning Fort Polk is used in decisions concerning the base. The organization actively markets the base as a place to provide Soldiers with the best training possible and strives to help ensure the best possible quality of life for Soldiers, civilians and their Families.

Reese said his organization assists the Vernon Parish School District by helping to improve educational opportunities for military-connected students and then promoting those achievements and Fort Polk to other command and senior leaders.

“It’s with that drive and purpose that we started the Education Initiative. We wanted to bring our partners to the table to do everything we can to raise resources, but the real work is being done by those of you here today being recognized. Anything that we can do to help with your success and facilitate the programs you identify to be important is what we want to do,” he said. “Congratulations on your achievements. Thank you for what you do. You have become a shining light in the Army as it looks at military connected schools around the country.”

There’s a lot to be thankful for as these Vernon Parish students, parents, teachers and administrators endeavor to do what they do every day, said guest speaker James Williams, Vernon Parish School District Superintendent.

“Our students work so hard to earn achievements like this, while their parents motivate them to succeed,” he said. “In the classroom, none of that success happens without teachers like you and administrators that aspire to bring them together to make our schools a success.”

Williams thanked their Fort Polk partners for support. “From the command team to the Soldier with children, Fort Polk and the Army supports what we are about, what we are trying to do and that we have their student’s best interest at heart,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Frank, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, told those in attendance that he understood there was a rigorous and competitive process for the winner’s selection over their peers for this recognition.

“I want to personally distinguish these educators and thank them for reaching beyond the standard to make a difference by demonstrating commitment to education, this initiative and our kids,” said Frank. “You bring success to your profession and we all benefit from your dedication to providing quality education and academic challenges to our students. It’s no surprise to this community and those assembled today that education is valued by our military Families as they make stationing and career choices. I applaud your efforts in growing Vernon Parish and I challenge and encourage your continued commitment to bring our students to new heights of success.”

Aurora Bauer, daughter of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Bauer and Anne-Marie Bauer, is the Elementary School Student of the Year. Bauer said she works diligently to be a good student.

“I love school, so being named student of the year is great and I’m excited about winning,” she said.

Johnny Bosley, high school principal of the year, said the ceremony was wonderful and he was overwhelmed.

“I know how tirelessly all the principals in Vernon Parish work, so I’m humbled to win high school principal of the year. Any success that I’ve had belongs to all the people that work with and around me,” he said.

Bosley attributes much of his success to his students and their drive to be the best. “Their work is what has shined the light on me,” he said.

Leigh Lansdale, elementary school principal of the year, said she was ecstatic and honored to win.

“It takes a true support team that includes students, parents and teachers, not to mention working together with my fellow principals, to reach an achievement like this,” she said.

Lansdale said she relies on her relationships with her colleagues to be the best principal she can be.

“They see the hard work I do and are happy to answer any questions I have and that helps me build a successful school atmosphere,” she said.

Kristen Bruce, high school teacher of the year, said she was flabbergasted to not only win at the school level but also at the parish level.

“One of the reasons I won is my students. I’m so proud of my kids. They have excellent test scores. I also try to make myself available to do anything that needs to be done at the school. I love teaching. You don’t choose this profession — I believe it chooses you. It’s my passion,” she said.