Holley Fontenot loves to help students develop as writers, critical thinkers

By Emily Burleigh

At St. Louis Catholic High School, Holley Fontenot, 38, gets to pursue her two passions: literature and language.

She teaches French at every high school grade level and AP English IV to seniors. While both subjects have their differences, they are both “rooted in developing global citizens with an appreciation for different cultures and perspectives,” she explained.

In addition to the opportunity to foster a love for Francophone culture (and subsequently Louisiana culture), she witnesses students “make leaps” in their French proficiency and comprehension throughout their entire high school experience.

“It is beyond rewarding to hear students speaking confidently in a second language, reading authentic texts, watching, and enjoying, music videos from French-speaking artists around the world or writing about their families and friends in the target language.”

Fontenot loves to help students develop as writers and critical thinkers. In her AP English IV class, she is able to share her love of literature with students. By introducing her student to novels that they connect to, she is able to help expand their understanding and perspective of the world around them.

She has taught at SLCHS for her entire 16-year teaching career. Over time, she has taught English I, II, III and IV, AP English IV, creative writing, mythology, speech, theater ARts and French I, II, III and IV. She is also the head of the World Language Department, and has previously coached cross country, sponsor the Drama Club and develop and lead the SLCHS House System

She graduated from SLCHS herself in 2004, and earned a Bachelor ‘sof Arts in English literature from Louisiana State University in 2008.

Since childhood, Fontenot has loved learned, discovering and reading. She became a teacher to guide students who don’t enjoy school into a journey for a fruitful education.

“I wanted to help those students who think they don’t like to read because they haven’t found the right book yet or don’t realize their capabilities. I wanted to help students who struggle to find a place where they can grow and learn and be met where they are to work toward a goal.”

To do this, she emulates those who taught her.

“Growing up, I had several teachers who were experts in their subject but were also mentors,” she explained. “I was lucky enough to have teachers who cared about me as a person, and I wanted to perpetuate that ideal.”

Teaching is Fontenot’s passion and vocation. Being in the classroom and working directly with students motivates her to challenge herself and take each unique day head-on.

“There is no room for complacency – I have to do research, attend PD, read, and collaborate with other educators to ensure I am best equipped to meet the individual needs of my students.”

She knows her hard work has paid off when her students experience the good consequences of effort. There is something magical about a student making progress and feeling confident and successful, she said.

To nurture achievement, Fontenot has created a classroom that is “empathetic, engaging, warm.” She does this by establishing mutual channels of respect between her and the students.

“I care about my students beyond the classroom, and I hope they know that by my words and actions. I set reasonable expectations, I listen to them, I treat them with grace and dignity and respect,” she said. “I want them to feel comfortable I would say my relationship with my students is strong then because they return that respect to me tenfold.”

All in all, Fontenot believes every student has the capacity to learn and it is her job to get them to the next checkpoint in their educational journey.

“All students are capable, and my job is to help them realize that and make progress.”

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