Thousands of educators from all around the state, including about 70 from Vernon Parish, gathered this week to engage in professional development sessions at the 6th Annual Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Department of Education hosted the three-day long conference which began Wednesday with an estimated 7,000 teachers and administrators at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

A large portion of the funding to send Vernon Parish educators to the summit came from The Rapides Foundation with some contributions from Title I and pre-kindergarten grants.

"It's an investment that the Rapides Foundation understands,” Evans Elementary (LA-4) teacher Anne Armbruster said. “Our parish is fortunate to be a recipient of quality professional development funded by The Rapides Foundation that will have a direct positive impact on student outcomes."

Louisiana Superintendent John White welcomed the group by encouraging them to elevate the profession as leaders in schools and communities after they leave the summit this week.

"It is my privilege to honor this outstanding group of educators from across the state," he said. “Every day, these teachers and principals inspire and encourage not only their students to learn and grow, but also their entire school communities. We are grateful for their leadership, and we are proud to call them Louisiana educators."

White explained the summit to be a place where educators come together as a community to celebrate what it means to be a teacher leader. “(You) dedicate your life to the noblest of professions and most important causes in the country… for the betterment of the lives of our children, the next generation and the future,” he said.

In his welcome speech, White honed in subtley on Louisiana’s infamous educational system ranking among the rest of the states. “Our job at its essence is about getting Louisiana’s children, all of them, to a point where they have expressed and manifested their full potential,” he said. “They are just as smart and capable as any in this country.”

Finalists for the 2019 teacher and principal of the year awards were revealed on Wednesday at the Teacher Leader Summit. This included Pickering High School teacher Kristen Bruce.

By the end of the conference tomorrow afternoon, educators will have attended more than 300 sessions, most educator-led, on topics ranging from behavior management, content-specific assessment strategies and teacher collaboration.

“As a principal and instructional leader it's my job to create an environment of successful learning and growth for both students and teachers,” Pickering Elementary Principal Leigh Landsdale said. The teacher leader summit provides a variety of educational training sessions, gives fellow educators from across the state an opportunity to collaborate, and focus time to reflect and plan for the upcoming school year.”