By Holly Penta
April Wade is a “change agent” for her students at East Natchitoches Elementary. She’s been teaching since 1986 and is currently an inclusion teacher for fifth and sixth graders. She believes that all students can learn and excel if they are intrinsically nurtured and know that someone genuinely cares. Students do best when they’re encouraged and when they’re in environments where their needs are prioritized.
For Wade, it’s hard to be under appreciated as an educator. The hardest part is seeing the minimum volunteerism in schools, especially from critics of public education.
“Teachers affect the lives of every individual in the world,” she said. “As such, they should receive the respect that they deserve.”
Teachers empower individuals with the essential tools of becoming literate, productive, contributing members of society and many teachers take on roles outside of their job. For example, many teachers are coaches and spend personal money to make the lives of their students better. Still, they do not always get the recognition, respect, or support that they need. Because of this, Wade is especially appreciative of individuals and businesses that support the mission and vision of education and to them she says, “Thank you!”
Her impact on certain students has been profound. Once, the older sister of one of her former students told Wade that her sibling only felt safe at school and that Wade’s unconditional love and support really meant a lot to her. Though Wade did not know what the student was experiencing at home, her love helped the little girl get through it. The sister told Wade it helped the girl in ways Wade has no idea about.
Experiences like these are some of her favorite parts about teaching. She loves to see former students and hear about their accomplishments and see how her teaching has impacted their lives. Another particularly notable student was a kindergarten girl who came into Wade’s class functioning well below average. The child hardly spoke and severely lacked confidence. Wade, with the help of a speech pathologist, helped the girl learn to speak well and read and write simple sentences.
Wade says that kindergarten is her favorite grade to teach since the kids enter the school year with limited knowledge. For her, observing students master foundational and grade level competencies is an exciting experience. She knows that these skills are learned by working together in the classroom. When children are younger, they tend to get more educational support from their families, which Wade finds helpful.
Although Wade strongly believes that teaching is a calling, she didn’t always know that she wanted to be a teacher. She had a few different career choices and prayed and asked God to show her what her purpose was. He reminded her of all the “classrooms” she created while helping babysit younger children. Her students and their parents are so lucky that He did.