Two local educators named Mississippi Administrator and Teacher of the Year

An administrator and a teacher, both from the Pascagoula Gautier School District, have been selected as the top in their fields in the state.

Pascagoula High Principal Dr. Caterria Payton and Gautier Middle School Band Teacher Louise Smith were named Administrator and Teacher of the Year during the State Department of Education’s annual program. Smith said, “Still in shock. There are so many wonderful candidates up for state teacher of the year.”

Dr. Payton said, “I’m excited and again humbled to be the Mississippi Department of Education Administrator of the Year.”

The program honors an administrator and teacher who shows great leadership skills, inspires students, and participates as an active member in the community. Dr. Payton said, “As the saying goes, teachers create other professions and I do wholeheartedly believe I started this walk because I wanted to return the efforts that others had given to me as a student. So, I became a teacher and then along the way my journey just kind of grew into pouring into teachers and other administrators.”

Dr. Payton has worked in education for over 23 years and says she wouldn’t be in this position without the support of her staff, teachers, students, and parents. “There are very few things in my career that I have done alone. So, while I’m the person standing here before you, there are so many people standing with me.”

Smith says being a teacher is not an easy job, but she knows the impact she has on students and will always advocate for them. “I have been advocating for public education in this state for about ten years now. I have been working with people and trying to raise public education and elevate teachers in this state for a while.”

Both recipients of the award received a $5,000 stipend through various presentations and activities for the improvement of education in the state. Smith will also represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition. “I am just super thankful and super blessed to be standing in this spot.”

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