By April Clark Honaker
Emily Howell is the ELA facilitator for Lincoln Parish Schools while also continuing to teach three classes at Ruston High School. As ELA facilitator, Howell essentially serves as head coach to the ELA coaches at individual schools and, at times, to individual teachers. She supports them in implementing the state curriculum by providing resources and professional development.
Although it’s common for teachers to give up teaching when they transition to a position with parish-wide responsibilities, Howell said, “I think there are so many great things that happen in the classroom that allow me to grow in my craft as both a teacher and district leader, and I’m not ready to give those hours with students up.”
And she said she feels supported in that decision by Superintendent Ricky Durrett.
“It was really his vision to have content facilitators who were part time in the classroom five years ago when he took the role as secondary supervisor for the district,” she said.
Howell has been teaching for 17 years and holds a bachelor’s in secondary English education and a master’s in English. Still, she said being in the classroom has kept her connected to the day-to-day lives of the teachers she serves. So much has changed in the last two years that continuing to be in the classroom has really helped when it comes to providing practical support for her peers as well as weighing in on district practices and decisions.
Given her role as ELA facilitator, Howell is in the business of leading and inspiring other ELA teachers, but she might not be in that position if it were not for a special teacher who inspired her. Howell has wanted to be a teacher since second grade and always played school as a kid, but it was her freshman high school English teacher, Ms. Lisa Cooper at C.E. Byrd High School in Caddo Parish, who inspired her to choose English.
Cooper pushed her students to excel.
“She really held us accountable,” Howell said. “That’s when I realized kids will rise to rigorous standards if you care about them and show them that they can all be successful.”
At the beginning of each year, the students often think Mrs. Howell is “too hard,” but she refuses to lower her standards. She said, “When they finally turn that corner and realize they can do hard things, it’s like a culture shift. These kids can do anything.”
Howell has continued to demand much of her students, even in the midst of COVID with all its added pressures. She said everyone was exhausted at the end of this year, but her students still made her feel appreciated.
“I got more thank you notes this year in my box from students–just thanking me for teaching them,” she said. “That was an unexpected affirmation that I’m right where I am supposed to be.”
Howell is grateful, too.
“I’m really proud to work for Lincoln Parish Schools, and I am proud that my own children are students in this district,” she said. “We have fantastic leadership, and everyone is rowing in the same direction throughout the district, which is powerful.”
To first-year teachers, Howell said, “Set high standards, hold the kids accountable, and expect them to be able to do rigorous work.”
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