Former Miss Bahamas Juliette Sargent Broussard is a top educator in the United States and in the running for the title of Texas Teacher of the Year.
Broussard, a teacher at Rick Schneider Middle School, Pasadena, Texas, was named the 2020 Region IV Elementary Teacher of the Year during the organization’s 30th annual Teacher of the Year ceremony in May. By virtue of that win she advanced to the regional level after being named Pasadena ISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.
She will represent elementary and middle school teachers from the Region IV area at the Texas Teacher of the Year awards ceremony, which will take place on October 25. Broussard is among the top six educators overall – three elementary from which Elementary Teacher of the Year will be chosen, and three secondary from which Secondary Teacher of the Year will be chosen.
On Thursday she will undergo an interview, and by Friday afternoon the announcement will be made as to the winners. Awarded by the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Teacher of the Year program annually recognizes educators who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching.
From the elementary and secondary teacher of the year, one person will be chosen to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year.
Win, lose or draw – Broussard, who leads the fifth-grade science team, is still a winner having made it to the top six.
“I’m amazed because I’ve only been teaching in the United States full time for four years. I am extremely amazed because there are so many schools here. Just my district alone has 49 elementary schools, so for elementary teachers you’re talking about 2,000 teachers and then to be named Region IV Teacher of the Year, that’s over 50,000 teachers. There are over 300,000 teachers in Texas – close to the population of The Bahamas.”
The process to her title and to being in the running for the national title wasn’t easy. She had to be nominated by teachers at her school for the award. Her principal recommended her for the district, after which she had to send in an application and go through an interview process for regions. She also had to do an essay in which she spoke about the history of her teaching experiences, philosophies, future goals and message for teachers.
“That was an extensive package that required that I get on my knees, because I didn’t know how I was going to produce it, but that’s what got me into the finalists,” said Broussard.
The top educator almost missed her calling. After her Miss Bahamas reign ended, Broussard studied political science and business at Edward Waters College – a far cry from education.
After she was done, she wanted to take what she described as a “brain break” and travel and have different experiences, so she accepted a teaching job in Osaka, Japan, teaching English. It was through teaching English to adults at NOVA, that she came to the realization that she should have been teaching all along.
“It clicked so well with me,” she said.
She spent about three years in Japan before she returned home to teach at her alma mater, Nassau Christian Academy, where she taught commerce and office procedures to high schoolers while she earned a teaching certificate in secondary education at the then College of The Bahamas (now University of The Bahamas) for close to five years before she married and moved to Houston, Texas, eight years ago.
Since she started teaching, she’s learnt she loves learning.
“Even though I don’t have a Master’s [degree], I’ve been to about 10 colleges and universities just taking classes because I just love learning. So, naturally as a teacher, in loving learning, then you’re teaching people how to learn. It’s a natural love for me.”
In her four years teaching, Broussard taught sixth grade science for two years before being asked to teach fifth grade science, which is a tested subject for students in Texas, and her school wanted to boost its scores so they recruited her from sixth grade to help with that, and also gave her the position of head of department for fifth-grade science.
She has been nominated RSMS Teacher of the Year twice – 2018 and 2019. She is also the 2017 recipient of the Eugene Chiappeta Chemistry and The Environment Award by Texas Chemical Council. She also received the 2019 Gulf Coast Educators Appreciated Teacher Award.
“What I liked about that particular award (Eugene Chiappeta Chemistry and The Environment Award) and that was so meaningful to me was that I was only in my second year of teaching science full-time, and the award was supposed to be for one person, and the one person that won has a Doctorate degree in science and she taught high school. You’re not supposed to compare, but to me it felt really good that they didn’t know who to really give the win to, so they gave us both it. And here I am…didn’t particularly train in that field, but I was doing a good enough job that I am competing with somebody with a Doctorate degree in science, so that meant a lot to me that I was on the right track in terms of my learning, and what I was already doing in terms of my learning and what I was already doing in science only in my second year, so that was a very meaningful award when I saw the accolades of the winner.”
She was nominated for the Gulf Coast Educators Appreciated Teacher Award by her principal.
Over the years, Broussard said she’s also learnt how to get along with different people and is known for her tough love approach and good management.
“I’m no pushover, but I will work with you,” she said.
Broussard, who taught in the private school sector in The Bahamas and who currently teaches in the public sector in the United States, said the two experiences have made her realize how fortunate Americans are because in the public sector they’re getting the same quality of education that has to be paid for in The Bahamas. She also likes the resources available to her and her students.
“They have so much at their disposal to be amazing students, but they’re already so used to having so much. I’m in awe, because even as a teacher, the amount of resources that are available to me for professional development and to stretch myself as a teacher is amazing.”
Broussard said she’s gotten to where she is now because she’s taken full use of those resources.
“For the last two summers, I studied at the University of Houston – it’s a free program for teachers on science, and I took full advantage of that. What’s so amazing about it, they paid me for doing it. And it’s so strange to get paid to train when it’s usually the opposite – you pay for training. So, I feel the American students in public school have a lot at their disposal compared to having to spend money to get an education – the quality of teachers, the quality of information they’re getting.”
In the same token, Broussard described Bahamian students as hardworking. She says that when she thinks about students she’s taught in the past who she didn’t feel like she reached, she wishes she could go back and reach them because of the training, resources and all of the information she now has.
“I don’t feel any kid could be left behind if they didn’t want to be,” she said.