|DISTRICT NEWS, Ascension Public Schools Rank 4th in State for ACT - 2015.07.17Baton Rouge, La. – Latest ACT scores solidify Ascension Public Schools’ position as one of the strongest school districts in Louisiana for college preparation. The 2014-15 ACT data released by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) on Thursday showed Ascension ranks 4th in the state with a composite score of 20.6. The state average is 19.4.
“This is another demonstration that our students perform to high standards and is indicative of the exceptional teaching present throughout the district,” said Ascension Public Schools Superintendent Patrice Pujol. “Although we continuously look at ways to build upon our successes, we already have much of which to be proud.”
Earlier this year, LDOE data revealed 71 percent of Ascension graduates enrolled in college as opposed to 59 percent statewide. The district ranks 4th in the state in this metric, as well.
Other recent accolades include:
- President's Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science: Dutchtown High physics teacher Brenden Simoneaux;
- 2016 Louisiana High School Teacher of the Year Semifinalist: St. Amant High teacher Danielle Delaune;
- 2015 Louisiana 12th Grade Student of the Year Finalist: East Ascension High student Parker Vige;
- 2016 Louisiana Principal of the Year Finalist: Gonzales Primary Principal Jaimee Williams;
- 2015 Louisiana Elementary Principal of the Year: former Pecan Grove Primary Principal Marjorie Meyers; and
- 2015 Louisiana Superintendent of the Year and National Superintendent of the Year Finalist: Patrice Pujol.
The ACT data released by LDOE was determined by seniors’ best score on the test. The “best score” method, used by colleges and universities for the purpose of admission and by TOPS for purposes of scholarship awards, calculates a student’s top score achieved any time the student took the test.
|DISTRICT NEWS, Simoneaux Wins Presidential Award for Excellence - 2015.07.15Ascension’s Brenden Simoneaux Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
GEISMAR, La. – Ascension Public Schools teacher Michael “Brenden” Simoneaux won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The Dutchtown High School physics teacher is one of only two in Louisiana to receive the national honor.
"These teachers are shaping America’s success through their passion for math and science,” President Obama said in a White House press release. “Their leadership and commitment empower our children to think critically and creatively about science, technology, engineering, and math. The work these teachers are doing in our classrooms today will help ensure that America stays on the cutting edge tomorrow.”
Each winner of this Presidential honor will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at his/her discretion. They also are invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony, as well as educational and celebratory events, and visits with members of the Administration.
“Students in Ascension Parish have long benefited from Brenden’s exceptional teaching. It is wonderful to see his expertise and hard work rewarded on a national stage. A homegrown teacher with a world view, his success reflects well on Ascension Parish and Louisiana,” said Ascension Public Schools Superintendent Patrice Pujol.
“Having a faculty full of stellar teachers like Brenden Simoneaux is vital to the success of Dutchtown High School. Mr. Simoneaux is a hard-working science teacher who holds high standards for himself and for his students. This prestigious award is well-deserved, and we are proud of the accolades Mr. Simoneaux is receiving by being named a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching,” said Dutchtown High School Principal Carli Francois.
ABOUT BRENDEN SIMONEAUX
Born and raised in Prairieville, Louisiana, Brenden Simoneaux comes from a long legacy of Ascension Parish educators. Between the members of his family - his grandmother, great-grandmother, and her siblings - they taught a total of 100 years in the Dutchtown schools.
His great grandmother, Celanie Babin Pellerin, attended the Normal School in Natchitoches (what is now Northwestern State University) to become a teacher. Her eight younger brothers and sisters followed in her footsteps. The great uncle of Mr. Simoneaux, Larry Babin, went on to become Superintendent from 1913 to 1925.
Raised in walking distance of Dutchtown Middle where the library now stands, his grandmother, Claire Schmidt, was also an educator. She taught for 34 years both for Ascension Parish and then at St. James Episcopal School in Baton Rouge. Simoneaux remains close to his grandmother, who will turn 96 in August.
“I would be remiss not to mention the constant encouragement of my grandparents – both of them graduates in education from LSU – in shaping my life,” said Simoneaux.
After graduating from St. Amant High School, Simoneaux earned an undergraduate degree in education from Louisiana State University in 1988, specializing in chemistry, physics, and earth science.
An avid musician who plays the piano, oboe and trombone, he earned a master’s degree in music education from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1993. While at Southeastern, Simoneaux played in the Jazz Band, and he has also performed in the Baton Rouge Concert Band for over 30 years.
His teaching career began at East Ascension High School, where he taught physical science, chemistry and honors classes. In 2003, Simoneaux moved to his current appointment at Dutchtown High School and began by teaching chemistry before switching to physics.
“I liked it because it was a change for me. I had to work very hard at LSU in physics courses and never dreamed I would be teaching it, much less winning a national award,” he said.
THE “FUNKYNESS OF PHYSICS”
Simoneaux strives to find ways to promote excitement about science within every student. “Not everyone finds chemistry easy, but they have to take it so I try to make it understandable,” he said.
The wall of his former chemistry classroom at Dutchtown High displays evidence of his teaching philosophy. Instead of making his class simply memorize the periodic table, he assigned an element to each student. Each had to research the element, design and then paint a visual interpretation of that element. The result was a vibrant piece of artwork rich with imagination, school spirit and multidimensional understanding of basic chemical properties.
“A speech teacher once told me 'you have to make your class entertaining so they will enjoy it and want to learn.' Teaching with hands-on activities and having a sense of humor are ways I try to make the learning fun,” said Simoneaux.
For example, to Simoneaux, it’s not just chemistry and physics. It’s the “coolness of chemistry” and the “funkyness of physics.”
One of his favorite teaching moments came at the end of the year when students turned in a required lab binder with a customized cover. “They had all the anecdotes and quotes I said throughout the year written on the cover. They even drew pictures of some of my sayings. That showed me they really enjoyed the course and having me as a teacher,” he said.
BRINGING NATIONAL BEST PRACTICES TO LOUISIANA
Brenden Simoneaux consistently works to improve his teaching methods by staying on the cutting edge of national best practices and technology integration. In the late 1990s, he was the first teacher in Ascension Parish to have an Internet connection in the classroom.
Now, he travels across the country to the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry in San Francisco to learn new methods of teaching and bring them back to Louisiana. Not only does he implement the new methods in his own classroom, but he also conducts teacher workshops at LIGO in Livingston Parish.
LIGO, which stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a scientific collaboration of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The National Science Foundation funds the program.
“I try to keep spreading what I have learned by volunteering time at LIGO for teacher workshops. This summer I am going back to the Exploratorium to learn about the next generation of science standards. That will give me the foundation to give workshops this year at LIGO and after school in our department,” said Simoneaux.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
In addition to his cutting-edge and approachable teaching style, Simoneaux credits the many mentor teachers who influenced his career. Chief among them was Conrad Braud, who supervised his student teaching and later became a colleague in teaching chemistry and his principal. Also, colleagues like Jill Holdridge, who worked alongside him for nearly 20 years, encouraged him and set a high standard for rigorous expectations in the chemistry department.
“I also recognize how fortunate I was to have many exceptional teachers in the Ascension Parish schools, from English to math to music teachers, as I obtained my public education here; not to mention the many inspirational professors at LSU and Southeastern – again in very diverse disciplines,” said Simoneaux.
He went on to say, “I am reminded of a quote from Sir Isaac Newton, ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ I am certainly no Isaac Newton, but I understand the meaning of what he was trying to convey.”
MORE ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL AWARD
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial selection process done at the state level. Each year the award alternates between teachers teaching kindergarten through 6th grade and those teaching 7th through 12th grades. The awardees named this year teach 7th through 12th grades.
To learn more about the award recipients, visit recognition.paemst.org.
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