Monday, May 26, 2014

UNO Alumni Named Finalists for 2015 Principal of the Year, Teacher of the Year

The Louisiana Department of Education has recognized a handful of University of New Orleans alumni as finalists for two top education awards: Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year.

Every year, the state department of education joins with Dream Teachers — a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to encourage educational excellence — to honor the state's "most exceptional educators."

The Department of Education and Dream Teachers will announce the 2015 Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year at the 8th Annual Cecil. J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration on Saturday, July 12, at the Crowne Plaza Executive Center in Baton Rouge. This year, more than 50 local districts submitted nominations.

Nominated among 15 finalists for Principal of the Year are three UNO alumnae.

Mary Laurie, legendary principal of O. Perry Walker High School in Algiers. Laurie, who received a Master of Education from UNO in 1992, received a top award in November from the Orleans Public Education Network's inaugural OPEN Public Education Awards, an initiative designed to highlight the best of New Orleans' public schools.

According to The Times-Picayune, Laurie received the network's Enduring Impact Award. Among her many achievements, Laurie tripled the academic score of Carter G. Woodson middle school in Central City in five years in the early 2000s. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has won accolades as principal of O. Perry Walker, where she is overseeing a merger with neighboring L. B. Landry High School in a $60 million building.

Laurie was nominated by the Algiers School Charter Association.

Charlotte Matthew, principal of Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School, received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from UNO in 1976 and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in 1982. She was nominated by Orleans Parish Public Schools.

Denise Catherine Rehm, who received her Master's degree in Education Administration from UNO in 2002, was nominated for the honor by Jefferson Parish Public Schools. She is principal of Joshua Butler Elementary School.

"Being a principal is one of the most challenging and important jobs in our district," said Superintendent James Meza, Jr. in a statement "I want to congratulate and thank Mrs. Rehm for her leadership, vision, and innovation that she brings to her staff and students at Butler."

Rehm has been the principal at Butler since 2009; she also served as the school's assistant principal for two years prior to her appointment as principal, according to a statement by the school system. Under Rehm's leadership, Butler has improved from a "D" school in 2011-12 to a "B" school in 2012-13. Butler was also named a Top Gains School in 2012-13.

Fifteen finalists were also selected as contenders for Teacher of the Year, according to the state department of education. Among them are three members of the UNO family.

Justin Burkhardt, who is currently a Master of Education student in the University's educational leadership program, is a teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Chalmette. He was nominated by St. Bernard Parish School system.

UNO has a long history of providing outstanding educational leadership throughout the region. In 2014 UNO alumni took the state titles for both "Principal of the Year" and "Teacher of the Year."


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