2021 New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year Finalists

2021 New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year Finalists

We received some amazing nominees for our New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year campaign … nominated by parents, students, colleagues, neighbors, and friends … all who have made a difference in the lives of students and who motivate and inspire those around them. Selecting the top 10 finalists from all of the nominations proved to be a very difficult task.

A team of objective judges will determine the New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year from the 10 finalists below, and the winner will be announced on Friday, May 7th!

New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year Top 10 Finalists

Jennifer Anderson – Visitation of Our Lady – Jefferson Parish

Jennifer Anderson{Nominated by :: Hope Landry} I am a grandmother that is raising her grandson. Obviously things have changed greatly since my 30+ year old daughter went to school. My grandson started in Mrs. Anderson’s class last school year as a Kindergartner. Not only was my grandson not prepared educationally, he had a behavior problem and lacked the maturity needed to proceed to 1st grade. Mrs. Anderson went above and beyond working with us to develop plans to help him succeed. When I made the decision to keep him back in Kindergarten for another year, you would think Mrs. Anderson would want to pawn off this troubled child to another teacher. Instead, she approached me and asked to get him again this year so that we could monitor his growth and maturity. I am very happy to say that not only is his behavior much better but he gets excellent grades and I attribute this success directly to Mrs. Anderson and all of the special attention that she gave to him. It is for this reason and so many more that I wish to nominate Mrs. Jennifer Anderson for Teacher of the Year. I certainly would not have made it through another year of the craziness that was last year and remained sane.

Amy Deslatte – St. Rita School, Harahan; Archdiocese of New Orleans

{Nominated by :: Nicole T. Parks} After finishing his kindergarten year virtually, my son was less than thrilled to start first grade in general. But all of that changed the day he met Mrs. Amy Deslatte.

He jumped in the car the first 1/2 day of school and proudly announced that he loves first grade and that Mrs. Deslatte is the best teacher he’s ever had! Now he’s had a number of great teachers in his three previous years at St. Rita. After just a couple of weeks of school, my son came home with a folder full of work they had covered in those first few weeks of school. The amount of work in that folder was astounding! Mrs. Deslatte has gone above and beyond to ensure our kids have been safe. Their class as a whole has only had to go virtual once and that was when the entire school went virtual for 2 days. When individual students have had to go virtual, she’s taught in-person and virtually seamlessly. She makes learning fun! My son constantly comes home talking about the new learning games she’s brought out, new manipulatives used to explain math concepts, etc. She extends grace to the kids! My son was diagnosed with ADHD before everything was shut down in early 2020. I didn’t immediately let Mrs. Deslatte know so that she could get to know him without having those four letters attached, and they formed a beautiful relationship. He has his moments but she has found strategies that work with and for him. She has found ways to connect with him, to help him regain his focus, to help him succeed. She sees past his weaknesses, works with him as he is and brings out his strengths. He truly adores her!

While us parents are still not allowed inside the school buildings and classrooms, she has found ways to connect with us. She, too, is a wife, mother and cheerleading coach for the school’s cheer team. She has taken time out of her personal schedule to come see our boys play flag football. That is something I would have never expected from a teacher in the first place, let alone during this crazy time we live in. She is selfless, often turning down things for herself in order to benefit her family and students.

I could go on and on. Mrs. Amy Deslatte is a bright light in the lives of her students and deserves to be recognized as the super star that she is!

Heidi Porter – Waldorf School of New Orleans

Heidi Porter{Nominated by :: Courtney Landry, Jessica Bayuga, Jennifer Weinstein, Cami Difranco & Margaux Dubuar} It’s been an insane year of uncertainty and stress for the entire world.
Heidi Porter, Waldorf School of New Orleans’ Magnolia Kindergarten Teacher, made our world safe, loving, and magical. I chose Waldorf School of New Orleans because I met her at a Parent-Child class 5 years ago, and we fell in love with her. She is truly an educator who makes a difference in the young children she teaches. She always does more than what’s expected, because she cares about her children and their families. She’s always available, and always the first to help out in any way for the school. She’s always calm, loving, and supportive in everything she does with my child. My child loves going to school every morning! I never have any problems with her in the morning because she’s excited to see her teacher! Amazing!

Going into the school year during a pandemic was difficult for everyone, but the Waldorf community had full trust in Heidi to make our children’s school life safe, beautiful and stress free. She’s a special early childhood teacher…
The children are finishing their kindergarten year, or as they call it, their “Butterfly Year,” with courageous, hopeful wings! The year has been full of change, and because of Heidi, my child remembers this crazy time in history as being the best school year of her early childhood life…

Heidi Porter is a vital asset to our community, and to anyone she meets. She’s a New Orleans gem. She helps us raise great little humans by educating them with compassion and genuine support.
We love her!

Stephanie Wust – Our Lady of Prompt Succor Chalmette, LA

{Nominated by :: Nicole Deano, Amy Sims, Shelby Adams & Britton Sims} It’s only fitting that I sit down to write about my wonderful nominee on her birthday, April 27. I would like to nominate Stephanie Wust for New Orleans Mom’s Teacher of the Year. Stephanie is a Pre-K 4 teacher at Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Chalmette, La. Her brightly colored classroom is nearly as vibrant as her smile and personality. Her students naturally gravitate towards her enthusiasm and excitement she shares towards learning. Stephanie is the teacher every parent wants, needs, (and requests) for their young child’s growing mind. Being a prekindergarten teacher, she’s one of the first ones to introduce school and learning to our children. Her students are eager to go to school, and even more elated to share their stories of adventures from the day. Stephanie doesn’t only make learning fun, she genuinely cares about her students too. You can tell that by the smiles the kids comes home with, or the look in their eyes when they talk about her. Stephanie isn’t only a superstar teacher, but she’s also a super mom too. She’s a mother to her two young children, Brady and Brenna. Stephanie is also completely involved and dedicated to her own kids. If she’s not in the classroom, you can find her at ball games and dance recitals, cheering her kids on and not missing a beat. Besides being a great teacher and mom, she’s also an incredibly strong and devoted wife. When her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, she still took life by the horns with grace and dignity. She will occasionally take a long weekend to accompany her husband to MD Anderson and turn around ready to teach when she returns. Although her personal life can be challenging, she doesn’t let it effect how her students see her… with a smile on her face and an always-ready warm embrace. Stephanie never asks for anything, but she deserves credit for everything she does for her school and family. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to not only nominate her for the amazing job she’s doing as a teacher, but to also praise her and thank her for being an incredibly strong and amazing woman.

Andrea Kurica – Mount Carmel Academy

{Nominated by :: Samantha Ricciardo} Mrs. Kurica is a class moderator, English teacher, mother, and advocate for her students. She does not only work on a large scale to ensure that we enjoy school, but she continues to be just as encouraging and hardworking within her classroom. From Hamlet to Frankenstein, we have been able to learn about literature in a more interactive way. After reading as a class, we play kahoots, work in small groups on projects, play educational games, and participate in socratic seminars which leaves us wanting to learn more. I have never left her class feeling unsure about the material or concerned about my knowledge of the unit. Furthermore, Mrs. Kurica continues to fight for her students outside of the classroom. This school year, we were not sure what we would be able to do because of covid. I am a senior, and the fear of being unable to participate in the traditions Mount Carmel offers consumed my entire class. However, our class moderators insisted that we would not be missing out. Alongside many others, Mrs. Kurica fought to provide us with a memorable senior year with rings, sweaters, gym day, and so much more. In place of senior activities we were unable to do due to covid restrictions, they organized movie nights and a senior soiree to ensure that our class was able to celebrate our years together. I was able to sing my senior song alongside my classmates which was a privilege my grade did not think possible this year. Without teachers like her, school would not be filled with the joy and excitement found within the halls of Mount Carmel Academy every day. I can only hope that everyone gets to experience a teacher as kind, hard working, and dedicated as Mrs. Kurica. Not only is Mrs. Kurica an amazing teacher, but her character is also portrayed in her motherhood. Although we do not always see what a teacher goes through once she is home, Mrs. Kurica has shared a little bit of her homelife with us. A few years ago, her son was diagnosed with autism which is difficult for any mom to hear. However, she has continued to support her children and advocate for others like them. During autism awareness month, she encouraged our school to wear blue to celebrate and honor others like her son. When girls at MCA sign up for child development, Mrs. Kurica gives a talk to explain to them the importance of advocating for your child even when others say to stop. Mrs. Kurica has also shared her love of the musical Wicked with her children to show them the beauty of being different. Mrs. Kurica is a teacher who strives for excellence within her classroom, school, and homelife, and I believe she deserves more than a thank you for all the hard work and dedication she puts into her job.

Kathy Choina – Brother Martin High School, Archdiocese of New Orleans

Choina_Kathleen1{Nominated by :: Megan Whalen and Thomas Mavor} Kathy Choina is a mother, wife, daughter, and a nine-year faculty member at Brother Martin High School. The mother of two sons, Andrew and Matthew, Kathy instills in them the power of prayer, sincerity, hard work, as well as courtesy to others. In her personal and work life, there is never a task or event where she is not physically and emotionally present.

A Partner in Mission at Brother Martin High School since 2012, she is dedicated to her students and the mission of our school: forming young men in the Catholic and educational tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart while meeting the needs of a changing world. Choina thrives in the classroom as a member of the World Language department, teaching Spanish to her students. Assisting in the formation of her students, she not only cares about the class as a whole, but she guides each student on their academic journey at Brother Martin. She is also the “mom” of her department, mentoring and forming two young Spanish teachers.

During COVID-19, Choina maintained high standards of learning expectations with her students and provided them with the necessary tools and training to succeed during remote learning. In spite of many challenges she faces today (she contracted COVID-19 and has some serious health conditions), she is a constant source of grace and zeal for those around her, students and colleagues alike. Her extracurricular love is the Crusader cheerleading team, who just won back-to-back National Champions in the medium varsity co-ed division for the Universal Cheerleaders Association.

In her free time, she is also an avid volunteer at St. Christopher the Martyr Parish and Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.

Kristin Neelis – Jefferson Parish

{Nominated by :: Molly Brouillette} Ms. Neelis has provided such an enriching and supportive environment in her 2nd grade classroom during this crazy year. When supplemental services like art were cut from the classroom due to covid precautions, Ms. Neelis took it upon herself to provide these enriching experiences to her students herself. Not only has my daughter excelled during this crazy year, but she has loved 2nd grade more than any other year. As a parent who has worried about the effects of covid 19 on our youth, I have found confidence this year in witnessing Ms. Neelis run her classroom in a way that has supported healthy learning that encompasses more than just arithmetic and reading. The kids in her classroom are excelling and happy. Every mother’s dream!
Despite the worldly circumstances in 2020-21, 2nd grade just might be the best grade ever in her students’ eyes which is why Ms. Neelis is a perfect recipient for this award.

Linda McSwain – L.B. Landry High School – Algiers Charter (NOLA-PS)

Linda McSwain - Algiers Charter{Nominated by :: Ceasar Hendricks} I would like to recommend Ms. Linda McSwain for this prestigious honor.

Ms. McSwain has worked as an educator for Algiers Charter for a number of years. Additionally, Ms. McSwain is highly respected among her colleagues and students.

Ms. McSwain has been readily available to provide her peers with advice as they have sought her out, and she provides nuggets of her experience in our team cluster meetings.

Recently, during the passing of her only child, Ms. McSwain was still concerned about her students and how teaching and learning would continue in her absence. This takes a big person to thinks of others when faced with a personal matter.

Ms. McSwain has a sweet spirit about her that draws people to her. She exemplifies every characteristic that a teacher of the year nominee should possess.

It is for these reasons that I nominate Ms. Linda McSwain for the New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year.

Rebecca Nelson – Waldorf School of New Orleans (Private School – Orleans)

{Nominated by :: Amy Marquis} Rebecca Nelson is a devoted middle school teacher, but she is so much more than that. It’s her love of teaching that makes her an exceptional educator and her well-roundedness that makes her such a strong role model for her students.

Working with middle schoolers is where she feels most comfortable. Ms. Nelson says watching their minds awaken and blossom at that age is a miracle! She loves teaching, and she loves her students. She gives her all by never resting on her laurels. No matter how many times she has taught a block, she always takes the time to review it to ensure it’s being presented in a way that will reach the varied personalities in her class. She gets to know her students on a deep level and truly respects who they are. Maybe that’s her secret to meeting their needs so well.

Ms. Nelson herself is quite accomplished. She nearly completed her PhD in Anthropology before deciding to become a teacher. She holds a Black Belt in Marital Arts. She creates a new chalkboard drawing at the start of each new block (here’s her latest: https://www.instagram.com/p/CL5PC1Qp0v0/) – each piece is more beautiful than the last. These are just a few examples of her achievements. Her broad range of interests and her diligence in mastering anything she takes on gives her students a living example of how to pursue excellence.

Ms. Nelson deserves the title of Teacher of the Year. She’s already holding herself to the highest standards. Please consider celebrating her for who she is and all the ways she gives – to her school, her students, and our community.

Simone Feaster-Armour – Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans

{Nominated by :: Amy George} As we move into month 14 of my son’s virtual learning life, Ms. Simone continues to be the highlight of his week. As a teacher of gifted students, her task is not an easy one as her students come at problems from so many different directions that she must constantly flip and adjust her lessons. That is hard enough in a regular school year but in this pandemic year, watching my 14-year old son light up when it’s time for her to work her magic is persistently inspiring. The other day, I walked in on his lesson to find him not only sitting up but leaning forward into his lesson, actively reading from Mary Had a Little Lamb, moving the first syllable of each word to the end. My son was: smiling, laughing, participating and thinking in a virtual classroom space 14 months into this. She is the only teacher he engages with in this way. When I shared my observations with her, she explained that she was working on their speech fluency skills in preparation for a debate unit that they are putting together. As we round out our fourth year working with this magical unicorn, I can think of no one more deserving of this award than the lovely Ms. Simone.

Not only will the winner be crowned the 2021 New Orleans Mom Teacher of the Year, but s/he will also win the fabulous prize package giveaway valued over $800 including:

**Winner (or a representative of the winner) is responsible for physical pick up of prize in the Greater New Orleans Area.** 


  1. I would like to vote for Stephanie Wust. She’s an incredible women and teacher. Our Lady of Prompt Succor School is very lucky to have her.

  2. Heidi is amazing! Three of our kids have had her and she is one of the reasons we’ve chosen Waldorf. Such an amazing and creative teacher who pours into her kids.

    Creative ways to celebrate seasons, holidays, and COVID flexibility has cultivated such a rich environment to learn.


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