ARCADIA, La. (KTVE/KARD) — “I was really taken aback because in this profession you don’t get a lot of positive recognition, but this was one of the greatest honors I could potentially receive, to be recognized for being an exemplary educator,” said Crawford Elementary School Principal Edwin Mason. “Because this is my passion. This is what I love to do each and every day.”

On Monday, May 9, the Louisiana Department of Education announced its list of the 2022 Exemplary Educators across the state, and it recognized Mason as an exemplary educator for Bienville Parish. According to the state department of education, the Louisiana Exemplary Educator Recognition Program honors the exceptional Louisiana teachers, teacher specialists and school leaders who represent excellence in the education profession.

When Mason was a high school senior, he did not know what he wanted to do after school, but his mother, who died in January, encouraged him to pursue elementary education. His mother, Gussie Murphy Mason, was an educator and also his father Edward Mason Sr. 

“I did a little tutoring as a high school senior, and a fire was lit,” Mason said. 

Mason and his family honored his mother’s legacy by creating a scholarship. 

“And I did because I saw the impact that they made, and the former students loved them and their impact on our community as educators and community leaders and it was just an awesome fit for me,” Mason said about why he became an educator. “And I went to Grambling State University and the rest is history.”

Mason made history as he was recognized as an exemplary educator. He found out on Friday, May 6, two days before the first Mother’s Day without his mom. 

“It was a very emotional week, but that was the icing on the cake to receive that email and be recognized for the work that you do,” Mason said. “I consider myself a servant leader and I believe in serving my students, staff and community. It was just a blessing to be honored for your service because we are servants of the community, serving our students.”

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For Mason, being a Bienville Parish exemplary educator is personal, because his career started as a Bienville High School teacher in 1998. However, in 2004, he served as assistant principal of Crawford Elementary School, but after eight years Mason wanted what he said was another challenge. He moved to Natchitoches Central High School and worked there for three years, and eventually, the superintendent hired him to reopen Natchitoches Junior High School. 

“That was one of the greatest experiences of my career to reopen that school, to put in the work, to make it a success,” Mason said. 

Following his time in Natchitoches Parish, Bienville Parish got a new superintendent, and the Crawford Elementary School principal position became open, and Mason applied. According to Mason, he attended Crawford Elementary School and while he was a student his father was the principal there. 

“God’s blessing…,” Mason said about receiving the principal position at Crawford. “I’m just glad to be home, with my own kids, my people and former classmates. It’s just a joy to be in my community.”

Mason’s godfather was the second principal at Crawford, and according to Mason, he is personally connected to the first five principals of the school. 

“Words cannot put into play how I feel and the immense pride that I take in my staff. My community will tell you how much of a passion I have for this school. Because I tell my staff that it’s personal for me because I walked these halls as a student,” Mason said. “It is an honor to… my dad is a great role model for me, he has been my entire life. To step in his footsteps and to try to have the impact that I can somewhat have that he had is… words are just immeasurable. I just can’t thank God enough for the opportunity to make an impact on these students.”

According to Mason, teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone at Crawford, but by educators implementing safety protocols, adjusting the way they teach and the community’s support they’ve made it through the challenges. He thanked the Arcadia community, the Bienville Parish School Board and its Superintendent William Watson and the Louisiana Department of Education for the recognition. 

“It’s a blessing to be recognized by your state and then to represent your parish statewide is another honor,” Mason said. 

Crawford Elementary Students are currently doing state testing. But the school itself is under construction to be renovated into a brand-new facility. The remodeling is set to be completed in August.

“I would say have a passion. If this job is not in your heart to do it, then you won’t excel. I can honestly say, I don’t come to work every day, this is what I love to do. It’s a joy, it’s a passion. It’s not a struggle for me. I enjoy it,” Mason said about his advice to other educators. “So, I would encourage any young educator, you must have a passion for it. You cannot be the first one out the door in the evening, you cannot be the last one to come in the morning. But you must have a passion for it that drives you to excel and be the very best in education that you can be.”

School systems from across the state submitted recommendations for the program through a confidential process, and according to the Louisiana Department of Education, it is from this impressive group that the following educators were selected:

  • Edwin Mason of Bienville Parish.
  • Lauren May of East Feliciana Parish.
  • Josie Butler of East Feliciana Parish.
  • Elizabeth Arnold of East Feliciana Parish.
  • Stacey Gaskins of Rapides Parish.
  • Lauren Bethancourt of St. Tammany Parish.
  • Danielle Troullier of St. Tammany Parish.
  • Monica Cador of Warren Easton Charter High School.

Louisiana Exemplary Educators receive a certificate of recognition and may be invited to participate in Department advisory boards and task forces. Exemplary Educators are also eligible for consideration in other recognition programs. 

The Department acknowledges that great teachers and school leaders are critical to student success. Learn more about the Louisiana Exemplary Educator Recognition Program and other award programs at louisianabelieves.com.