Tech alumni honored as Teachers and Principals of the Year

Jan 22, 2021 | Alumni, Education and Human Sciences, Tech Family

Six Louisiana Tech alumni have been selected to represent the Lincoln Parish School District as Teacher of the Year or Principal of the Year. The honorees will progress to the statewide competition.

Don Schillinger, dean of Tech’s College of Education, said he is thrilled to see so many individuals connected with Tech honored in this way.

“We are grateful for the outstanding College of Education graduates who embrace continuous learning and professional growth opportunities and, because of their deep commitment to serving others, excel in their careers,” Schillinger said. “We are incredibly proud of these professional and accomplished educational leaders and grateful to them for being Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs.”

The six alumni honored are:

  • Early Grades Teacher of the Year: Dr. Tammy Schilling from Hillcrest Elementary, who has an education certificate from Tech’s College of Education
  • Elementary Teacher of the Year: Dr. Tracy Bennett from A.E. Phillips, who has her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from Tech
  • Junior High Teacher of the Year: DeEtte Wick from A.E. Phillips, who received her master’s in curriculum instruction
  • High School Teacher of the Year: Courtney Martin from Ruston High School, who earned a bachelor’s in secondary education
  • Elementary Principal of the Year: Mary Wilks-Kilgore from Cypress Springs, who has a master’s in education
  • Secondary Principal of the Year: Daniel Gressett from Ruston High School, who received a bachelor’s in secondary education

Gressett, who has worked at Ruston High for nearly 20 years, said Tech has had a great influence on him with great people and programs that have helped him be flexible, especially during this last year dealing with a global pandemic.

“If there’s ever been a year for new ideas, it’s this one!” Gressett said. “The ideas that my staff and I have had to come up with and implement to make a school day happen this year have been challenging, to say the least. From figuring out the logistics of lunch for 1,300 students to organizing temperature checks, hand sanitizing, social distancing, mask distribution, and much more, we’ve had tons of ideas. Our teachers, staff, and students have done an amazing job of adapting and being flexible this year. We feel like we can handle anything thrown at us.”

One change Gressett and Ruston High have implemented this year has been Gressett’s Greatest. Teachers are given coupons that they can give students for demonstrating the core tenets of the RHS school motto: Respectful, Responsible and Ready.

“Students turn in their coupons, and we hold weekly drawings where we award students who are given a ticket sweatshirts that say ‘Gressett’s Greatest,’” he said. “At the end of the semester, all students who were given a coupon are awarded lunch. It has been a popular program because there are no pre qualifications for getting a coupon, and the students have loved being awarded a sweatshirt.”

De’Ette Wick from A.E. Phillips shared Gressett’s sentiments about dealing with COVID-19 ramifications.

“Technology has become a crucial part of my teaching because of COVID,” Wick said. “I teach students in school and virtually every day. I recently started live streaming my class so that virtual students can have as much instructional time with me as possible. This has also allowed the students at home to collaborate with students who are in class.”

Courtney Martin, who works at RHS with Gressett, said she is fortunate to belong to a parish teeming with dedicated, passionate educators.

“I believe that Tech is working diligently to prepare its students to serve Lincoln Parish in a monumental way,” Martin said. “I, like many of the educators here, am not native to Ruston or Lincoln Parish, but discovered that my heart had found its home during my years at Tech. Going into Lincoln Parish’s schools as a college student, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would willingly and happily serve this parish and its students after graduation. I believe that Tech’s commitment to Lincoln Parish and its education system is one of the reasons why our schools are so great.”

One of the ways Martin encourages her own student is to encourage them to learn to help themselves.

“I have moved to become more of a ‘go through’ for my students rather than a ‘go to,’” Martin said. “”In our digital world where so many answers are at their fingertips, I want to help them learn to help themselves. Also, as a math teacher, I work hard to shed positive light on a subject that is weighted by negativity. I aspire for my students to leave my classroom not merely able to perform a calculation but understand what is behind it and how it can be used in their everyday life.”

Tracy Bennett from A.E. Phillips said she, like Martin, loves teaching and helping her students grow each day.

“As a teacher, I strive to foster a feeling of family in our classroom,” Bennett said. “It is rewarding to observe everyone working together to make our classroom and our class its best. This means all of us showing respect to one another and making sure we help when and where we can. We aim to grow together. Positive words, thumbs up, smiles, and engaging conversations go a long way in helping children to see and reach their full potential as students and as people.”