The 2008-2009 High School Teacher of the Year for Kaplan High School and Vermilion Parish, Patrice Mire, is a prime example of what is right in our schools.

Now in her twenty-third year as a teacher, Patrice has an impressive list of accomplishments under her belt including writing and receiving a fifty-thousand dollar grant for her classroom.

Many would find it hard to imagine that the very role Patrice embodies was actually not her career first choice.

Patrice Mire is a Kaplan native and daughter of James and Dorothy Quebodeaux. A 1981 Kaplan High School graduate, Patrice entered college at then USL with the intention of becoming a Medical Technician.

That all changed when Patrice entered into her first college chemistry class.

“On the very first day of class, the chemistry teacher asked us to draw a model of an atom,” Mire said. “I drew it as I was taught, with the circles, and he put his hand on my shoulder and asked me where I graduated from. When I told him where, he said I was going to have a hard time in his class because people from small towns always struggle.

“There were about one hundred-fifty students in the class, and I was sitting with students who had graduated from Acadiana High and Comeaux High – they all had Chemistry I and Chemistry II – and we didn’t have that at Kaplan High.

“I will never forget my first chemistry lab, I broke everything! I didn’t get my deposit back because of that. I didn’t have the experience that the other kids had coming from other schools. Back then, we were taught the bare basics and I wasn’t prepared.”

Patrice immediately decided to change her major to education. She felt that students entering into universities coming from smaller school districts shouldn’t have to be at a disadvantage.

These students should be receiving the same quality of education as those students enrolled in bigger school districts.

Her parents were both teachers, and she remembers very vividly what it was like for them struggling to make ends meet on a teachers’ salary. Nevertheless, Patrice was determined to make a difference.

She recalls a memory from her youth when a high school teacher made an early deduction.

“I had a high school history teacher who told me immediately upon walking into his classroom that I was going to be a teacher. I told him ‘Oh no, I’m never going to be a teacher.’ He said, ‘I bet you a quarter!’

“On my first day of teaching I walked into a job where he was also teaching and he held out his hand and asked for his quarter! It’s amazing how some people just see it in you, but you don’t see it in yourself.”

1986 was a big year for the teacher. She graduated from USL, got married, and began her first teaching job at Rene Rost Middle – all within a few short months!

She continued teaching seventh grade at Rene Rost for three years until a job opening became available at Kaplan High School.

She made the transfer to KHS and has been their Chemistry teacher ever since, with the exception of the 2002-2003 school year when she served as Assistant Principal in an Erath school.

Her decision to return to Kaplan High was motivated by the fact that she genuinely missed teaching in Kaplan.

“It just didn’t feel right not having that black and gold on. At the end of that year, my job was still open because they had not found anyone to take my place – so I came back home.”

When asked how teaching has changed the most in the past two decades, Patrice mentions technological changes and innovations.

“When I first started teaching I was typing tests on a typewriter. The only resource that students had was basically their textbook, the newspaper, and if we had enough money we could order some science journals.

“And now, I have been very fortunate to work with our Parish Supervisor, Roland Pautz, who has written a lot of grants for our parish, and have helped bring technology into our classrooms.

“Year before last, I worked with him and I wrote a grant specifically for our classroom and I received $50,000. I was able to make upgrades in the classroom and get a SMART Board.”

For Patrice, her education has never ceased. She has spent her summers and free time devoted to furthering her learning. Whether it was grad school or work shops – she did, and still does, everything possible to make sure she doesn’t get stuck in a rut. She is constantly trying new things to avoid teaching in the same old boring way.

She adds, “There is always room for improvement. I am not the best out there; there is always something I can learn from someone else.”

Even though Patrice is only seven years from retirement, she feels that she may teach beyond that time frame.

“Let me put it this way, this is year 23 – we’ll talk at year thirty. If I still wake up every morning still liking my job the way I do now, then I will definitely still be here.

My father always gives me the advice, ‘Why retire to go and get another job? If you are still happy in what you are doing, why retire just for the sake of retirement?’”

As an extension of her role as teacher, Patrice tutors former students who are now in college and also tutors students from surrounding high schools.

This year, she has once again taken an active role in the dance team alongside co-sponsor, fellow teacher, and former student, Heather Doucet.

Always the teacher at heart, she also has a message for the students.

“The thing that I want my students to realize is that, whenever teachers are giving them advice – the advice is not just coming out of thin air. We do actually know what we are talking about. I wish they would realize that whenever we are giving them advice – like on how to study or how it will be when they leave the walls of Kaplan High – that it is not just a scare tactic.

“We are just trying to get them ready for the real world, for what it will be like when they get out there.

“Another message I do want to send is this: someone has got to take my place sooner or later. Education is not a bad profession. The only thing is it’s a job you have to love because you are not doing it for the money. It has to be in you to be a teacher.”

Behind every good teacher, is a wonderful support system – and Patrice is no exception.

She is grateful to the KHS staff of teachers and principals for being there for her while she was working on the classroom grant. Patrice is also appreciative of the shining example set by her parents, who are both retired teachers, and the tips they often lend.

Most of all she thanks her husband of twenty-three years – Timothy – for being there through thick and thin.

“Tim has been a blessing. There are often times when I have to bring work home with me and he is always there helping out with the housework.”

Patrice and her husband Timothy currently reside in Kaplan where they share their home with their Dalmatian, Tache (French for spot).

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