Champion for children: Vidalia librarian selected semi-finalist for State Teacher of Year

Published 9:41 pm Sunday, May 27, 2018


VIDALIA — A Concordia Parish teacher has been selected as one of Louisiana’s 24 semi-finalists for the 2019 State Teacher of the Year Award.

Susan Mingee — Vidalia Lower Elementary School’s librarian — said she never thought she would receive any special recognition. Mingee said she mostly sees herself as an encourager among her students and her coworkers.

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“I’m just a little old librarian,” she said. “I’m not used to being in the spotlight.”

Next Wednesday, however, Mingee will be recognized in New Orleans with the other semi-finalists for both teacher and principal of the year, where nine teachers will be named the finalists for State Teacher of the Year. The overall winner will be announced in Baton Rouge July 27 at the 2018 Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Gala — sponsored by the Dream Teachers organization.

Last Thursday, Gary Lacombe, a representative of Dream Teachers, drove from Baton Rouge to each of the semi-finalists’ schools to give each teacher and principal his congratulations and a gift of appreciation.

Mingee’s selection as one of the 24 semi-finalists is part of a long process that began when she was named the 2018 Teacher of the Year for Concordia Parish.

“It was such an honor to be nominated,” Mingee said. “My principal (Sandy Scruggs) and my superintendent Whest Shirley both encouraged me to move forward and apply for State Teacher of the Year.”

She said the process includes six different essays, an hour-long video recording with herself teaching a lesson in front of her class and her reflection of the video with a description of what she did well and what can be improved.

Mingee was also required to do an interview through a video call, where she spoke about what she hoped the future of teaching would be like.

“I would like to see the teacher training programs lengthen the time the teachers are actually in a classroom,” she said. “Normally a student teacher is with a class for maybe part of one semester. … Had they had more time in the training process, I think we could retain more teachers and support new teachers better.”

During her interview with one of the state representatives, Mingee found out her wish was already coming true.

“Starting later this year, new teachers in the teacher’s prep program in Louisiana will do a one-year internship,” she said. “It was coincidental that was going on behind the scenes.”

Mingee has been teaching pre-kindergarten through second-grade students for 34 years.

“Throughout my career, I have been an encourager,” Mingee said, “for my students as well as new teachers, librarians and all staff members.”

Mingee said she used her flexibility as the school’s librarian to make her lessons fun and interesting for her students and to support the curriculum that her fellow teachers are using.

Mingee said she is privileged to be in a position where she can interact with all of the students at Vidalia Lower Elementary School.

“I know what I’m required to teach, but I’m not told how to teach it,” Mingee said. “I’m given the leeway and the freedom to decide what I think is best for the students.”

Mingee said she decided she was meant to teach when she was a little girl, just starting the second-grade.

Her encouragement and inspiration came from her first-grade teacher, Kate Cole, who later became Mingee’s principal and hired her as a teacher’s assistant. Cole also became one of Mingee’s professors while she went through her student teaching.

“She played a huge role at all stages of me becoming a teacher,” Mingee said. “She loved (her students) and we knew it. She went out of her way to make everyone feel special.”

Mingee said she does not know what to expect next Wednesday. She said many teachers in the state and in the parish who deserve to share the spotlight.

“I never even thought I would be a semi-finalist,” she said. “I’m really excited to represent my school district. … There are wonderful teachers all over the state and right here in my own school and school district and so many more that need to be recognized besides me.”