Porch & Parish Magazine - Serving the Zachary, LA Community

Zachary Stories

Teach For America trio finds lifelong friends in Zachary

More than a decade ago, three young women fresh out of college answered the call to move to rural Louisiana with Teach For America to fulfill two-year contracts at Jackson Elementary School in East Feliciana Parish. Sasha Simons from Salem, Oregon, Kim Coats from Aurora, Illinois, and Lauren May from Laguna Hills, California, wound up living at the same apartment complex in Zachary and working together. The three found solace in each other’s company and forged an unbreakable bond, becoming the best of friends.

As their initial two-year contracts came to an end, Sasha, Kim and Lauren decided to stay. The three had grown accustomed to their weekly dinners and Bible Study at their apartment complex in Zachary.  Their hearts had grown attached to the community and the students, and the unwavering support they received from Megan Phillips, their principal at Jackson Elementary, who they say had become the glue that held them together. And while many people move on to other things and start another career altogether after their two years of service with TFA, Sasha, Kim and Lauren continued with the teaching profession.

Carol Sloan, retired librarian at Jackson Elementary, says the caliber of teachers at Jackson Elementary School is surprising and unparalleled, and a large percentage of the staff was affiliated with Teach For America. “So many people have come down with their two-year commitment, then decided to continue with the profession, become board certified, gotten doctorate or masters degrees,” she says. “They all come here with an open heart. It’s all for the kids, and they give everything they have, plus some,” for the kids, Sloan says.

Looking back, Sasha, Kim and Lauren marveled at the unexpected turn their lives had taken. They had initially anticipated a brief stint in Zachary, but the community’s warmth and the friendships they had cultivated compelled them to stay. “I definitely wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t have y’all,” Kim admitted. The TFA program had been the catalyst that brought them together, but it was the genuine connections they had formed that anchored them to Louisiana.

And it certainly didn’t hurt that they all soon met and married Louisiana boys!

While Sasha and her family have made the difficult decision to move back to Oregon this fall to be closer to family, she’ll always have ties to South Louisiana, and there’s no doubt she’s left an indelible mark on countless students at Jackson Elementary.

Thank you all for staying to share your gifts and talents with the community!

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