Dept. of Education announces 2020 Louisiana Teacher and Principal of the Year

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Elementary, Middle and High School Educators Honored at 13th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Gala
BATON ROUGE, La.- The Louisiana Department of Education tonight announced the 2020 Louisiana Teacher and Principal of the Year at the 13th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala. Christopher Mark Dier, of Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, was named the 2020 State Teacher of the Year, and Jennifer Dennis Carey, of KIPP East Community in Orleans Parish, was named the 2020 State Principal of the Year.

2020 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year

Dier teaches World History and Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography at Chalmette High School. He is a proud product of the St. Bernard Parish public school system and the son of a longtime teacher. In his senior year of high school, Hurricane Katrina uprooted him to Texas, where he finished high school and attended East Texas Baptist University to study history, political science, and psychology. After his time in Texas, Dier returned to St. Bernard Parish and obtained two Master’s degrees–one in education administration and one in teaching–from the University of New Orleans.

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Dier taught for five years at the middle school level before transitioning to Chalmette High School. At St. Bernard Middle, he was voted Teacher of the Year by colleagues and awarded parishwide Teacher of the Year. At Chalmette High, he was also voted Teacher of the Year and awarded parishwide Teacher of the Year.

Dier is always seeking ways to develop as an educator. In 2016, Dier was selected as a Hollyhock Fellow at Stanford University, a program that brings educators together to work collectively toward creating more inclusive classrooms. In 2018, he completed an AP Summer Institute course at Fordham University, and he currently participates in a professional development program at Harvard Business School that focuses on case method teaching, in which he works to find solutions to real-world problems and challenges in the classroom. Dier has also been recognized as a “Distinguished Teacher” by the Delta Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute, and he has written a book on St. Bernard Parish that was published by the History Press.

In the classroom, Dier is dedicated to providing an equitable and multicultural education to all who walk through his door. Outside the classroom, he enjoys coaching and playing soccer, traveling, reading, writing, riding his motorcycle, and spending time with family.

2020 Louisiana State Principal of the Year

Carey is the School Leader of KIPP East Community Primary in New Orleans, LA. She founded KIPP East in 2014, starting with a team of 10 dedicated educators and 100 kindergarten students. Under her leadership, the staff has grown to a team of 60, and the school now serves approximately 560 students in Pre-Kindergarten through 4th grade. Last year, KIPP East’s first year to participate in state testing, LEAP 2025 results placed the school in the top 10 elementary schools in New Orleans, including selective enrollment schools. KIPP East was also recognized as a top-performing high-poverty school, meaning the school scored in the top 20 percent of Louisiana schools that serve a population of greater than 75 percent economically disadvantaged students.

Before founding KIPP East, Carey served as the assistant principal of the 5th and 6th grade Lower Academy at KIPP Central City Academy. She began working with KIPP New Orleans 12 years ago as a 5th grade reading teacher, compelled to become part of the systemwide change that was occurring in the city. Previously, she worked for Teach for America and taught 2nd grade in the South Bronx in New York City. Carey received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory University in Atlanta and a Master’s degree in teaching from Pace University in New York City.

She is not only the School Leader of KIPP East, but also a proud KIPP East parent. Her 6-year-old son Eddie will soon enter 1st grade, and her 3-year-old daughter Frances will enroll in the coming years.

“The theme of tonight’s event is ‘Educators Change the World,’ and we celebrate the great teachers and principals who have done just that. They have left a lasting impression on their students, their peers, their communities, and their state,” said State Superintendent John White. “We applaud their accomplishments and appreciate their passion, dedication and innovation. In these winners, as well as in all of the honorees, we see the best of our profession.”

In addition to announcing the overall state winners, the Department named the 2020 State Elementary, Middle and High School Teacher and Principal of the Year winners.

The 2020 Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Jessica Borland of South Grant Elementary School in Grant Parish; the 2020 Middle School Teacher of the Year is Lisa Celestine Jack of Vidrine Elementary School in Evangeline Parish; and the 2020 High School Teacher of the Year is Emily Odgen of Rayville High school in Richland Parish.

The 2020 Elementary School Principal of the Year is Lisa Burns of W.T. Lewis Elementary School in Bossier Parish; the 2020 Middle School Principal of the Year is Tamika Green of Albert Cammon Middle School in St. Charles Parish; and the 2020 High School Principal of the Year is Carli Francois of Dutchtown High School in Ascension Parish.

This year, school systems submitted more than 200 nominations for Teacher and Principal of the Year. The Department named 48 semifinalists in April 2019. A state team then narrowed that pool to 18 finalists. Those finalists participated in face-to-face interviews with selection committees led by community and education leaders, and the selection committees ultimately chose the state division-level and overall winners.

All 2020 Teacher and Principal of the Year finalists and semifinalists were also celebrated at the event, along with Louisiana’s Milken Educator Award winner and the Louisiana Association of School Executive’s Superintendent of the Year. Stephanie Whetstone, of Bains Elementary School in West Feliciana Parish, received the Milken award, and Dr. Theodis Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Parish, was honored as the State District Superintendent of the Year.

The annual awards ceremony, held at the Crowne Plaza Executive Center in Baton Rouge, is co-sponsored by Dream Teachers, a non-profit organization founded in 2006 for the purpose of recognizing Louisiana’s finest educators and education leaders and to encourage educational excellence. The event drew a crowd of over 500 guests.