Diocese educators recognized with Golden Apple Awards from KALB

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) – Father Taylor Reynolds teaches 8th Grade Physical Science at St. Frances Cabrini School in Alexandria.

“I’m honored that even in two years I could make a little bit of a difference for the kids,” says Fr. Taylor.

Cabrini student, Gillian Bordelon, says Father Taylor is always willing to help his students when there is something they don’t understand. “He explains everything. Some things that are difficult, like in the classroom right now, he’s teaching us how to do chemical equations.”

8th grader, Brenna Griffin says Father Taylor shows them brilliant experiments, even taking them on a field trip to launch and recover a weather balloon. “Father Taylor shows that he cares and he involves us in fun-filled trips…and its overall enjoyable to learn what he is teaching.”

Cabrini student, Sierra Guimaraes describes Father Taylor as a “cool” teacher who makes science fun. “He’s really goofy and more like a big brother. Outside our school, he’s our priest and our youth minister.”

Father Taylor says he aims to make teaching more than just reading from books and taking tests.

“How can I better my life, how can I discover more about the world, how can I make things, maybe that don’t make sense, how can I make them useful in my life.” And all while helping students make connections between physical science and the Catholic faith. “Studying science, you are studying the handiwork of God. You are seeing how God put an order and a plan to everything that exists and again you are just kind of discovering the fingerprints of God everywhere.”

Sylvia Davis is a 9th grade English teacher at Holy Savior Menard.

“Since we’re her last class she’s teaching, it’ll be an amazing award and make everything better for her,” said Menard student, Mason Holloway.

She was nominated by Holloway who says Miss Davis makes understanding the subject easy.

“She’s very personable with her students and every day after class I talk to her, just an amazing person to be around, makes my day all the better every day,” added Holloway.

Principal Chris Gatlin says Davis’ years of experience in a variety of roles over the years has made her an outstanding educator.

“Because she knows about kids and she knows how to reach kids and it makes her a very good teacher,” says Gatlin.

When asked how it feels to be a Golden Apple winner, Davis remarked, “Well since I’m a golden senior citizen, it feels amazing – AMAZING!

Davis says she was inspired to become a teacher by her own parents and grandparents who are all teachers.

“My favorite memories are when a kid just didn’t get it and all of a sudden the light comes on, that’s why we do it,” Davis said.

This year will be her final year in the classroom. She plans to retire at the end of the school year.

When asked what is the one lesson she wants the students to take with them when they leave class, Davis said, “learning doesn’t stop after the classroom, we are continuously learning. When we stop, then that’s the end, so we learn every day, and not just Romeo and Juliet that we are doing right now but we learn life lessons every day.”

When schools shut down last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were left to figure out how to keep their kids on track academically.

“That’s one thing we feared for both of our kids but especially for Jackson – that they would just be a step behind where they needed to be,” said Cole Churchman, father of 7th grade student Jackson Churchman.

The unsung heroes of the last year are grandparents like Gregory “P-Paw” Ray who have stepped up to make sure their kids don’t fall behind as they transitioned to distance and virtual learning. Ray has spent the last year helping his grandson Jackson Churchman stay on track with his studies.

“It was really hard,” said Jackson when talking about virtual learning.

In addition to helping Jackson with his schoolwork two to three days a week while his parents are working, Ray – a retired U.S. Marshal – used the time away from the classroom to teach Jackson life skills.

“We would ride the four-wheeler, till the garden, tend to the dogs, watch the news, talk about current events, balance a checkbook, talk about money, talk about a job, talk about retirement. Just life skills that probably you don’t learn in seventh grade,” Ray said.

Jackson and the family presented P-Paw with a special award for all his efforts.

“It says the Greater Kolin Independent School District recognizes Gregory P-Paw Ray. 2020-2021 Junior High School Teacher of the Year. So that’s from my kids. That’s special,” Ray said.

As of the week of March 15, students in Rapides Parish were finally scheduled for a full school week in the classroom.

“I’m very excited because I’ll get to see my friends every day,” Jackson said.

Ray says one of the biggest lessons they’ve learned in all this is that learning outside the classroom is harder than it seems.

“I think the biggest thing is that people have to socialize. People have to have people to get better. You can’t just learn everything off of a computer or a book. You can’t read it and get it. You have a lot of advantages when you have someone there who spends quality time with you to show you what needs to be done,” Ray said.

That’s especially true for parents who are doing it all on their own.

“I feel very blessed to have Greg who’s been at home this entire time to take up the reigns on that. I really don’t know how parents who don’t have the grandparent or the relative who’s either staying at home or who’s retired that’s been able to help out like that. I’m sure it’s been very difficult for those parents,” Churchman said.

We dedicate an “Honorary Golden Apple” to Gregory “P-Paw” Ray and all the others in Cenla who have stepped up to help during the most difficult year most of us have ever seen.