Ann Gerace Marionneaux – Devoted Iberville Parish Teacher and Advocate for Special Needs Children

PAM BOESCH Contributing writer
Ann Gerace Marionneaux

Many people may already know Ann Gerace Marionneaux since she was born and raised in Plaquemine. You may also know that she is a very humble, devoted and compassionate person with no desire to "toot her own horn". Several generations of Iberville Parish residents might also have been taught by her, since her teaching career spans decades. What many might not know is just how deep her commitment and passion for teaching runs. Learning how deep that devotion goes is awe-inspiring. Mrs. Ann has been teaching the children of Iberville Parish for 35 years…33 years at Crescent Elementary and in 2010 joined the staff at Plaquemine High as a Master Teacher. She is a certified TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) evaluator and certified EMSS online mentor for Special Educators Nationwide.

She was born to the late James Gerace and Barbara Rills Gerace as the oldest of three children. "My sister and brother are both talented artists but my vision was always teaching." said Marionneaux. As a youth, her mentor, Sister Jimma of St. Basil's, gave her the job of student helper to 4th and 5th graders. "Sister Jimma was so calm and wonderful and she guided me towards teaching. I knew very early that I wanted to focus on special needs children." She pursued that dream at Nicholls State University with a double major in elementary education and special education. Finishing the five year program in four years, she was eager to begin her teaching career. During this time, she married her husband of 34 years, Donald Marionneaux and had two children, Devlin and Hana. "The first years of teaching were hard. When you know children are struggling or have an unstable home life, it's difficult to see them get on the bus every afternoon," says Marionneaux. Her drive to become the best teacher possible for special needs children gave her the strength to continue. She took additional classes and learned Braille, sign language and other special tools. "When I learned that autistic children can hear the hum of fluorescent lights in the classroom, I turned off the lights and brought lamps from home to help calm them." recalls Marionneaux. "You do what it takes to make them comfortable enough to learn." She continues training yearly in technology based learning, math initiatives and science initiatives. She also co-wrote a math program for elementary students. She joked, "After thirteen years of math initiative training, my husband asked me if I had learned how to add yet."

She was considering retirement in 2010 when Dr. Ed Cancienne approached her about the Master Teacher role at Plaquemine High. "I worried about leaving my Crescent family and I still miss them very much. The good news is that I now get to see my former students in the high school setting." When she made the transition to Plaquemine High, the school was in corrective action. "I was so honored to be a part of it. There are wonderful and loving children here and I know God put me here for a reason. We have put together a team of people who are committed to promoting student achievement. Everyone brings unique qualities and experience to the table." As a TAP evaluator, she helps support teachers in promoting student achievement. The faculty meet twice a week in cluster groups to model lessons and place students in the best academic stage for them to achieve. "During the summer, we met on every single child to make sure they were on track." says Marionneaux. "When Dr. Cancienne said "No Child Left Behind" he meant it. You have to advocate for every student you teach. Some have support and some do not. You have to stand up for them."

Her colleague, Michele Gulotta, who taught with Mrs. Ann at Crescent for 20 years says, "There is nothing she does not know about Special Education…no matter the disability. There was simply no better mentor and I learned so much from her. She has the patience of a saint and I miss her daily. She is like a mother to me." Her sister, Jane Boudreaux, art teacher at St. John says, "She has touched the lives of so many students and their families. I have learned a lot from her as well. We live next door to each other. She is really big on early to bed, early to rise. Of course, I never would follow that rule. She would always tell me you need to get your boys on a schedule and get organized. You shouldn't have to rush and fuss in the mornings. And, every morning I would rush and fuss getting my kids out the door to go to school. Ann would be sitting in her rocking chair outside calmly drinking her coffee, a baked cake cooling on the counter, and supper planned before going to work. I can tell you this she is the total package of a wonderful sister, wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, and friend. She is one hard act to follow and I am proud of her accomplishments."

Mrs. Ann, a devout Catholic, says she prays daily that God will surround her and her family with good and decent people with wonderful principles. Her latest blessing is her first grandchild, Max Michael. He was born this summer and she is proudly basking in her new role as grandmother. Smiling she says, "He is the man of my life right now."

One thing is certain, Ann Marionneaux has contributed immensely to the lives of our children for 35 years. She has done this with dignity, devotion, enthusiasm and an inner strength seldom seen. With tears in her eyes she said, "I am only able to do this because of my support system…my family, my friends and my faith. Without that, I couldn't make it."