LEESVILLE, La. (Fort Polk Progress) - For Summer Peters, English II and AP Literature and Composition teacher, the experience of teaching at Leesville High School in Leesville, Louisiana, has been full of fond memories and rewarding opportunities.
Peters, a graduate of LHS, returned to teach at her alma mater 10 years ago. She was selected as Leesville High School Teacher of the Year and Vernon Parish Teacher of the Year in 2017.
"I possess great pride in my school and Vernon Parish School District," Peters said. "I find it gratifying to be able to give back to a community that has always supported me."
Teaching in a school within Vernon Parish School District, many of her students are from military families. Peters, who is a military spouse herself, said the military students she teaches have so much to offer their peers and school.
"The large population of military children in the district serve as a great support in the classroom," she said. "The military children bring a different view to the classroom and are able to apply worldly connections to assist their peers who have lived in Vernon Parish their entire lives."
She said an example of this is that military children are able to connect and relate to literary works referenced in class based on their own life experiences with living in different duty stations and going through their parents' deployments.
"Military children are dynamic individuals who have learned to overcome many challenges in their short lives," Peters said. "Through their constant perseverance, their peers are able to witness that no matter what path life gives you, you are in control of your decisions and must learn to make the best of the situation."
While she does encounter challenges when teaching military students, Peters works with them to get through the tough times, like deployments. She said last school year was particularly difficult for many of her students.
"Many of their parents were deployed and learning to adjust to the expectations of home, while still maintaining their school work, was initially a challenge," Peters said. "Many times, it is easy to look at a student and simply think they just didn't do an assignment because they either didn't want to or didn't know how to do it. What I saw last year was that often, it was neither."
Peters said many of them were just coping with taking on additional responsibilities in their households and other stressful and emotional aspects of the deployment.
"As children who are becoming young adults, my students were experiencing a transition of wanting to make sure they were helping out at home to fill any voids to make the lives of those in the house easier," she said. "Also, there were important moments in their lives that their deployed parent missed, and it weighed heavily on the minds of my students."
"As a teacher and a military spouse, my heart ached for them as I wanted to make sure they were doing their work, but I also empathized with them that their hearts were heavy," Peters added.
Peters said that VPSD provided her with various opportunities to ensure she provided the best learning environment for all of her students -- both military and civilian.
"The district goes over and beyond to make sure their teachers have the training necessary to truly impact each and every learner in the classroom," Peter said. "VPSD is a district that truly cares about the success of every person who walks through the doors of one of their schools. I choose to look at each day as a new day and attempt to find a way to reach my students."
This school year, Peters hopes to continue building relationships with her students.
"To me, that is the most important aspect of teaching because, in order to ensure their success in the classroom, they must learn to feel comfortable with their teacher and be able to share their thoughts, concerns, and failures," Peters said. "Through the value of my feedback and the building of these relationships, the students become not only better learners but also productive members of society."