At A. C. Steere Elementary School in Shreveport, Louisiana, teacher Staci L. Thomas has helped her kindergarteners become responsible for their own learning and learn how to interact with each other in a respectful and productive manner. Thomas calls her class the Pit Crew, promoting a sense of community by modeling the experience of working together toward a common goal, as in a NASCAR pit crew. She uses writing projects, hands-on activities and manipulatives to help students learn and grasp difficult concepts in a fun environment. Every one of her students has successfully mastered the skills necessary for promotion to the first grade. Thomas gave private instruction to a girl with cancer at St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis. Touched by the books that had been donated to the hospital by other kindergarten classes, she embarked on her own project, the Sweetheart Book Drive, through which her students donated more than 400 books over two years for a new children's hospital. Thomas encourages parental partnerships through the Parents as Partners in Education program, and hosts a Pit Crew Training Night to show parents how they can help their children learn at home. An inspiration to other teachers, Thomas has mentored a new teacher at her school, served as a cooperating teacher to eight student teachers in Caddo Parish, and supported new teachers in the Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program (LaTAAP). A National Board Certified teacher, Thomas has helped train and mentor National Board Certification candidates and served as an assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Dallas.
1992 Louisiana Tech University, B.A.