"Fort Polk is vital to the area. We hope to unite
the installation and the surrounding communities
to care for its soldiers and their families. It's our
-Michael Reese, Fort Polk Progress President
One of the traits that makes the Vernon Parish School District excel is how educators not only teach their students in the classroom but drive them to stand out in the community.
Ann Smith, an employee at the Louisiana Board of Education, Lisa Lohman, principal at Anacoco High School and Carolyn Bosley, principal at Rosepine Elementary, are part of a line of individuals who are committed to excellence in education, with special emphasis on education in Vernon Parish.
Smith came to Fort Polk, La. with her husband to get closer to their home of Mississippi, she said. Once she settled in Vernon Parish, the former educator for military children embarked on a productive career in the local school district.
'I taught in the classroom for eight years, served as a K-12 guidance counselor for 10 years and seven years as an administrator,' said Smith, who still resides in Anacoco.
Smith taught Lisa Lohman at Anacoco in the 1980's and has fond memories of her as a student.
'Lisa was a quiet and unassuming student but was extremely driven and studious,' Smith recalled. 'I saw her potential and pushed her hard.'
It is the rigorous academic atmosphere that makes the difference in Vernon Parish according to Smith, who currently visits school districts across the state in her role at the Louisiana Departme Caront of Education.
'In my seven years work with the state I see the difference a great school district makes not only with the students but with the entire community, and Vernon Parish does a great job,' she said. 'They have great teachers and excellent administrators. Additionally, the schools in Vernon Parish are a tremendous asset to the military families.'
Lohman remembers her years as a student at Anacoco and particularly Smith, who was Lohman's English teacher.
'She was absolutely impressive and also intimidating,' Lohman said of Smith. 'I was impressed with her academically, and I immediately noticed she was a person of high character. She was extremely stoic professionally under all circumstances. She was the first person to correct you and the first person to congratulate you. She taught us not only school lessons. She helped us learn how we were going to use the skills she taught us in school later in life. She taught us to be confident, to look people in the eye when we talk to them and how to present ourselves.'
Lohman took the lessons she learned during her years as a student in Vernon Parish and went to college where she began her studies in education.
'I always wanted to be an educator, and I had some incredible role models growing up,' she said. 'My mother was my greatest influence. She was the manager of the cafeteria at Anacoco High School for 29 years.'
Lohman said her experiences in the Vernon Parish school district were indispensable and were the impetus for her career path.
'I believe the education I received in Vernon Parish was extraordinary, and I wanted to give back a portion of what was given to me,' she said.
Smith says her personal circle with Lohman was nearly completed when her son, an Anacoco High student, entered Lohman's American history class in the early 2000's.
'Lisa was his teacher,' Smith said. 'Although he was academically gifted, he was not working to his potential. She inspired and pushed him like I pushed her. He worked harder for Lisa than any other teacher.'
Another student Lohman inspired was Carolyn Bosley, who is a now the principal at Rosepine Elementary School in Vernon Parish.
'I had known Carolyn since she was a young child,' Lohman said. 'Our families knew each other.'
Bosley entered Lohman's classroom and immediately impressed her teacher with her intelligence, but it was as an athlete that Lohman, who also coached her in basketball and track, recognized Bosley's tenaciousness.
'When you teach a child in the classroom, you know them to a certain point, but you really get to know their motivation to succeed and their work ethic in competitive athletics,' Lohman explained. 'I learned very quickly that Carolyn had a fire in her, and she wanted to be successful. I knew that would always be a part of her nature in everything she did.'
'Lisa had a strong impact on me,' Bosley recalls. 'It wasn't just sports. It was about life with her. She taught us how to achieve greatness beyond the basketball court. I am thankful to be driven, and I am thankful for teachers like Lisa who pushed us to excel.'
She went on to say that as a student and now a principal she knows that expectations for students, teachers and administrators in Vernon Parish Schools run high.
'Lisa expected excellence from us, and we had high expectations of ourselves,' she said. 'It became who we were. And, it takes people to consistently push for excellence that makes our district what it is.'
After college, Bosley never gave living somewhere besides Vernon Parish a thought.
'I always knew I would come back home, and I knew I wanted to work with kids,' she said. 'I have a great love of children, and I decided in my second year in college to become a teacher.'
Bosley remarked that she, like Lohman, is motivated to give back to her community some of what she received as a child.
'I only hope that I can have as great an influence on my student's lives as my teacher had on me,' she said. 'I want my students to make a mark in this world and to be all they can be. I believe we have a responsibility to teach our students they have unlimited potential.'
'It's a desire by Vernon Parish to be the best, to be on top,' Bosley explained. 'We don't want to settle (as) number four in the state. We are not content. We want to get better. Our goal is to continue to get better. It takes all of us to constantly push for excellence (to) make our district what it is.'
Lohman said that classroom teachers in Vernon Parish are the backbone of the educational experience.
'I want my students to remember how I made them feel as a person first,' she said. 'I know that as a teacher you have the power to empower a child's dreams or to crush them.'
'To me it is one of the most gratifying things an educator can experience, to see one of your students become so successful,' said Smith. 'It is rewarding to have a small part in the development of students like Lisa and to know the influence has not stopped.'