My Christmas Gifts Were the Words of My Students

A Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all!

I have made a decision to write my legislators in Louisiana about the inadequacies of the Louisiana COMPASS teacher evaluation system. I have scored 1.8 and 2.0 on a 4.0 scale every time I do a fall evaluation, and I firmly reject the notion that these numbers reflect my qualities as a teacher. I requested students to write to me with either positive or negative impressions I left with them during my twenty-three years of teaching. The responses have been, to say the least, heart-warming and humbling, especially during this precious time of Advent. A few responses are below.

As this time of Advent draws to a close, I am re-invigorated with a spirit of hope. I have one of the best vocations in the world and have imparted knowledge about life and learning to over 3,000 souls. It doesn’t get any better than this. Merry Christmas!

From the Students…

You were definitely a great teacher! … You taught algebra really well and when I didn’t understand something you were able to explain it just right so that I was able to comprehend it. The jokes you made in class actually made algebra bearable and fun to go to!

David Mas, LHS Class of 2012

You made World History and Western Civ come alive for me. Your teaching and testing methods are what helped me through college and helped prepare me to “look it up” and discover on my own instead of spoon feeding me the info… I am so sad that my children won’t get to experience your show.

Ashlee Comeaux Gary, CHS Class of 2001

I had to take a test with an educational diagnostician. She also went through some of my school work and test papers. It was because of your tests that she was able to pinpoint where I struggled. Because you asked such a variety of questions using various methods, she was able to see where I was struggling. That was a turning point in my academic career. I went from As, Bs, and Cs to mostly A’s. Changed my life completely.

Mary Carolyn Haik Duffy, CHS Class of 2004

You are an amazing teacher. You really try to teach your students any way that you think that they would remember… You are one of the very few teachers that I have found that really does care about his students and values knowledge above all things… I am working on my BA in history due largely to your influence because your love of history was infectious. I wish there were more teachers like that who will instill the love of learning instead of just worried about test scores.

Abby Williamson Kennedy, CHS Class of 2008

Mr. Barras is one of the most motivating and attention grabbing teachers I have ever had. I looked forward to his class every year, I doubt any teacher could make math as interesting as he did. He really understands his students and relays the learning material in a way that we understand. I continue to use his methods in my college classes today. He is an amazing educator, any student would be lucky to have him as a teacher.

Christina Benoit, LHS Class of 2011

Mr. Barras. I can honestly say you were the best history teacher that I have ever had the privilege of learning from. You are in the top 3 teachers that I have ever had in my life in any subject, including college. Your one World History class at Catholic High School taught me enough to allow me to minor in history at ULL and finish with a 3.6gpa in history classes… It was truly an honor to have you as a teacher and I thank you for doing it so well.

Alex Crochet, CHS Class of 2005

Mr. B, you only taught me one course and that was freshman algebra… What I can remember from 20 years ago is that you strict yet fair, but concerned about all your students’ well-being. You demanded the best from your students because you knew how capable we were. All you wanted for us was to succeed. You always gave 110% to your students even if we didn’t. You taught me that sometimes hard work is required to achieve my goals… The fact that you care so much after all these years is proof enough that you are a damn fine teacher. I would be proud and honored if you ever taught my kids.

Patrick Dauterive, CHS Class of 1998

The entire Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Command salutes you, Mr. Barras. I remember when I came to your class I had stopped caring. Stopped caring about grades, about people, about anything. I hated math and I could never understand it, until I learned to pay attention. And when I chose to listen to those complicated strings of arithmetic, I found that you put them in such a way that I could understand them. And you know what? I passed. It was too late in the year to make much of a difference, but it was just enough to allow me to pass junior year. From then on, I chose to be proud of my grades. Proud of everything I do. You played a vital role in making me who I am today as a proud sailor of the greatest navy in the world. And, on a rather amusing note, I DO actually use some of the things you taught me in class. I use graphs and linear functions on a regular basis to do some pretty cool things, like hunting submarines and tracking torpedoes. So you can tell that to your students who think they’ll never use algebra. You are a truly wonderful teacher as well as a beautiful person. Please keep this very same determination in what you love to do, and stay motivated in making sure you continue to benefit the lives of others. Thank you so much for your efforts.

Chase Hebert, LHS Class of 2013

I applaud you, Mr. Barras and I appreciate your willingness to better our society even despite those above you, and so many others, who have no idea what it means to teach… You are a hero, as are many other teachers who, like you have chosen to stand up. You are a remarkable teacher.

Brandon Comeaux, LHS Class of 2013

You’re anything but a failure.

Evie Credeur, LHS Class of 2014

Vincent Barras was one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure to be associated with, rivaled only by his mentor, Dr. Donald Voorhies and a former poet laureate of Louisiana that I studied under at LSU, Dr. David Madden. His interesting and fun teaching techniques, involving multiple facets of learning structures (be it kinesthetic, auditory and/or visual), were always incredibly effective at helping ALL of his students learn. He has the unique ability to generate interest in even the most mundane of topics by directing his students to aspects of the subject that engage them in multi-faceted ways. This ability allows students to explore new subjects with an invigorated interest, which facilitates learning in ways that cannot be described. As an individual who has ADHD, I needed multiple inputs of information just to keep myself on track in school, and Vince’s teaching techniques were always helpful in allowing me a full sensory input that engaged my mind and allowed me to completely understand subject matter that may have otherwise bored me.

Not only was Vince an incredible teacher in the classroom, but he became a great friend out of the classroom and later in my life through his diligence and interest in individual students’ lives, including my own. He shows his students that he CARES about THEM. They are not simply a number in a desk. They are important, unique human beings whose daily struggles and achievements matter to Vince. This is important for students going through the tumultuous task of adolescence, with the added expectations of maintaining college-ready grades and curricula, because it allows them a venue to express frustrations in confidence, express their failures to an earnest and caring ear and to celebrate their victories with a confidant they know they can rely on. It is also important for young people to have such a confidant when they move on past high school education and Vince continues to excel in that role for literally thousands of young adults whose lives he has touched in some way or another.

I know that my life would not be the same if I had not been blessed with the experience and interactions I had with Vince. He continues to be a dear friend that I treasure to this day.

Jonathan Parich, CHS Class of 2002

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