Pascagoula-Gautier School District celebrates its Administrator and Teacher of the Year

Every year the Mississippi Department of Education puts a spotlight on leaders who have a positive impact in their communities.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:44 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - The Pascagoula-Gautier School District celebrates its two state winners. Gautier Middle School Band Director Louise Smith was named the 2023 Teacher of the Year and Pascagoula High School Principal Dr. Caterria Payton was named 2023 Administrator of the Year.

It’s the first time two state winners have come out of the Pascagoula-Gautier School District at the same time. These honors came during an award ceremony in Jackson on April 28.

Smith has been teaching at Gautier Middle School for 21 years and she said she wants to be a representation for teachers across the state.

“We have fantastic teachers across Mississippi,” Smith said. “They work so hard during the school year. I hope I can live up to all the things they do.”

She said she’s for the award, but she says seeing her students succeed is the real prize.

“I am so incredibly thankful but my students and what they do from day today is the biggest pay off,” she said.

Dr. Payton said the feeling is overwhelming.

“It takes a team to do everything,” Dr. Payton said. “While I’m standing here before you there’s so many people with me and behind me and on the sides of me. We’ve earned this honor together.”

Alona Torre, a Pascagoula High School sophomore, said she appreciates Dr. Payton for all she does for the student body.

“She not only does stuff for the school she does stuff in the community,” Torre said. “I think she definitely deserve the award.”

Smith said her goal is to create a promising future for their students.

“Education takes someone’s base and elevator opportunities,” she said. “Every child deserves a great public education. We have the ability to stand in front of kids and change courses of future.”

Dr. Payton will serve as the school district’s assistant superintendent next school year. She said she’ll be ready to serve.

“I’ll continue to be the life of teachers continue to be the light for students and provide the resources that they need to be successful,” she said.

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