Moments before his mad dash to an all too familiar school board meeting, Dr. Donaldo Batiste took a few moments from his busy schedule to speak to us on the importance of education and parenting.
MODERN PARENTS Magazine: What was your favorite educational experience, or experiences, as a child?
Superintendent Batiste: As a child, I vividly remember from pre-school age to high school, always wanting to be a teacher. Our family was reared in the rural south (Gray, LA), and as such, we did not have television until I was 7 years old (second grade). Being the seventh of eight children in my family, our greatest pastime was being read to by our parents and by our older brothers and sisters. Needless to say, each of them espoused being the teacher when they read to us. I always was impatient until the time would come and I could be the teacher and read to my siblings. I will never forget…it was the day before Thanksgiving in 1958 (before I entered formal schooling in August, 1959) when I was granted the opportunity to read to my parents because I insisted that I could. I can still see the incredulous looks on both their faces. I don’t know who was more excited that I could read, I or them?! It was from that humble beginning that my insatiable appetite for reading and teaching were given wings. To this date, I still recognize this beginning as my favorite educational experience as a child.
MPM: How did your parents send the message that education was a priority in your home?
Batiste: My parents, who never completed high school, but did complete the highest grades required of them at those times (third grade for father and fifth grade for mother), always placed priority on their children being educated and allowed to enjoy the finer things in life. This they did by ensuring that each child attended school daily. Of the eight of us, seven of us graduated from high school with perfect attendance. My sister, who did not have perfect attendance, suffered from a congenital birth disorder and was not expected to live beyond the age of seven. Consequently, she spent two years confined to a hospital during her high school experience. Nonetheless, she was the first of my siblings to attend college; although, she passed away while in her second semester of her college experience. My parents provided an opportunity for each of their eight children to attend college and/or business/trade schools. Today, besides my sister who passed away while in college, three of us have matriculated and worked as teachers or business leaders. One of us is a senior level administrator in corporate America, another is a “self-made” entrepreneur. Additionally, one is a school secretary, and yet another is a business manager. From this description, it is plain to see that education was and is a priority in our home.
MPM: What do you think is the single most important indicator of overall student success?
Batiste: The single most important indicator of overall student success as I see it, is a student having a positive self-image of him or herself that communicates that he or she is happy with self and that other people believe in them and what they can do. I know that this was the case for me.
MPM: What message would you like to leave with parents?
Batiste: The message I would like to leave with parents is that it is their duty and responsibility to foster positive, self-esteem building experiences with and for their children. Although they may not always think that their young children are watching them, they are, and their memories of vivid experiences are incredible!