Northwestern State University alumna April Jessup Giddens, a sixth grade English/language arts teacher at Natchitoches Magnet School, was recognized as Louisiana’s 2012 Teacher of the Year during the fifth annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration. Giddens earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Northwestern in 1996 and a master’s degree in 1998.  During her 15-year teaching career, she taught at NSU Middle Lab School and for the last four years has been at Natchitoches Magnet. 

“I feel so blessed to be chosen.   It’s very humbling and I’m very excited,” Giddens said.  “This casts a positive light on Natchitoches and on Northwestern.” 

“Teachers like Ms. Giddens are the backbone of our educational system,” said Acting State Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler.  “She and others are shaping the lives and future of our children, and we enjoy thanking them in this very special way." 

Giddens was selected from 24 regional finalists for Louisiana Teacher of the Year. She submitted a portfolio May 27 and went through an interview process earlier this month prior to the symposium, which concluded with a banquet and the awards ceremony. Also announced during the event were the 2011 Superintendent of the Year, and the 2012 Teachers and Principals of the Year for elementary, middle and high school. Giddens’ principal Julee Wright and Natchitoches Parish Superintendent of Schools Dr. Durwood Duke were present when the award was presented.

Included among the many prizes Giddens receives are use of a Mercedez-Benz for one year, a SMART BoardTM with projector and software from SMART Technologies and $5,000 from Dream Teachers, a non-profit organization that recognizes Louisiana educators and educational leaders. 

The SMART technology and software “will be a key component in my classroom this fall,” Giddens said.  “There are parents whose children I will have as students this year who have let me know how excited they are.”

Giddens, who graduated from Florien High School in 1992, is married to Mike Giddens, a 1994 Northwestern graduate, and has three children, Hannah, Timothy and Emma.   She credited the exceptional teachers she had at Florien, as well as her faculty mentors at Northwestern, for her success. 

“There are teachers I had at Florien and at Northwestern who were strong role models for me,” she said.  “I feel like I need to thank all those teachers for preparing me.”

"These distinguished educators and educational leaders are a fine representation of the high-quality teachers and principals we are fortunate to have in Louisiana," said Penny Dastugue, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. "We should all thank them and recognize them for their hard work to improve the lives and futures of Louisiana’s children." 

In April 2012, Giddens will represent Louisiana at the National Teacher of theYear event in Washington, D.C., where she and other top teachers from around the country will be introduced to President Barak Obama. 

“I wish every teacher could get this award,” Giddens said. “There are so many deserving teachers out there.”