Long before Tina Thibodeaux realized it, former administrators at Benton Elementary knew she would be an excellent addition to Bossier Schools’ team — and they were persistent.
Thibodeaux had been the home room mother since 2005 when her daughter was in kindergarten. She served on the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and was at the school most every day.
For years, Norma Anderson, who was Principal at the time, and Assistant Principal Amy Gates asked the perennial volunteer to sign up as a substitute, but she shrugged it off. It was not until Thibodeaux went to the Bossier Parish School Board Central Office to pick up paperwork for the school that she realized Gates had signed her up as a sub.
“Turns out I loved it!” Thibodeaux said. “From 2009 through 2013 I was the Super Sub. That’s what Mrs. Gates called me.”
Her part-time status then changed to full-time when Thibodeaux was hired as the GASP paraprofessional at Benton Elementary and she found her calling. Fast forward to the present and Thibodeaux continues to love working as a paraprofessional at Kerr Elementary, where she has stolen the hearts of the faculty and students there; so much so, her colleagues nominated Thibodeaux to be named Bossier Schools’ Gold Star employee for April.
“Ms. T is so amazing! Anytime she knows I need anything or need help with something, she immediately gets on it,” exclaimed Lynn Jacob. “I love her positive energy she brings to our school. She is a total advocate for our kids, too. In fact, yesterday a new student forgot her lunch, so she ran next door to grab her something. What a blessing she is to everyone!”
Librarian Barbara Helms calls Thibodeaux “The Energizer Bunny! She never stops. She loves our kiddos and they love her. They may not can say her name, but they know she loves them!”
Content to be a helper in the background rather than in the forefront, Thibodeaux said being able “to talk with all the littles” each day is what she loves most about her job.
“Some littles are having a bad morning and all they really need sometimes is a smile and a hug,” she added.
Her love for students does not stop at the schoolhouse, either. Thibodeaux has gone to softball games, birthday parties and football games through the years and spent many a day in GASP with children who she said just needed someone to talk to, laugh with and cry on.
“I always tell them you were not born walking. First, you learn to crawl, then you stumble around, then you start to walk.” She further elaborated, “The impact I truly (feel) deep down in my soul is they can be the change. That they can do anything they set their strong-willed minds to. That it takes steps to make the change they want, and there are so many opportunities and people that are willing to help them on how to make that change; they just have to ask.”
The other thing that drives Thibodeaux is her desire to help teachers, whether it is watching their class so they can take a restroom break, running copies or making deliveries.
“I never want anything in return. Most teachers say ‘I owe you.’ But what I really want from them is that smile. You know the smile that lets you know deep down I really did help them. To me, that’s payment enough.”
Principal Madora Abney counts Thibodeaux as one of the Kerr Kat family’s greatest blessings.
“She sees a need and takes care of it,” Abney explained. “She saw students who had shoes that were too tight and she took it upon herself to purchase them shoes that fit. In addition to students, she makes sure all employees are taken care of. She always seems to know what people need. She is truly a Gold Star.”
As Thibodeaux reflected on the exciting announcement made by Bossier Schools administration and carried live on Zoom throughout the school, she said, “I still tear up when I stop and think I actually am a winner of a Gold Star! How can I be a Gold Star winner for something I love to do? My Kerr Elementary work family is a great group of fun loving people always going that extra mile for the kids. You can walk down the hallways at any time of the day and the kids are always pumped up about what’s going on in the classrooms. That makes me smile. Mrs. Madora Abney greeted me with open arms the first day I met her. It doesn’t feel like going to work everyday. It feels like I’m going to see friends and family. Smiles through masks and elbow bumps all day long.”
Editor’s note: Know someone who works for Bossier Schools that is deserving of recognition for going above and beyond? Nominate them for the Gold Star award, proudly sponsored for the last nine years by Bossier Federal Credit Union. Just go to https://www.bossierschools.org/goldstarnews and tell us what sets them apart.