For someone who has received enough accolades and awards to fill a school cafeteria, Mount Carmel Academy president/principal Sister Camille Anne Campbell remains extremely approachable. She has dedicated her career to bettering the lives of her students and community. “I love being a principal,” she beams. “The environment of really caring about the students and wanting to help them succeed is the family atmosphere we have here.”

Campbell grew up in Jackson, Miss., where she attended Catholic schools with aspirations of becoming a doctor. Her grandfather was a school superintendent for 47 years, her father a lawyer and her mother an English teacher. When the family moved to Thibodaux, Campbell became acquainted with the Sisters of Mount Carmel who operated an all girls’ school.

“I found such a wonderful spirit in the Sisters,” she recalls. “It was a really loving, hospitable atmosphere in their school and in the way they dealt with children. They were out playing baseball with the kids, waiting for the bus and possessed a sense of God’s presence.” When Campbell sustained an ankle injury just before college, she decided to enter the convent instead of launching her pre-medical career.

She began teaching math and religion at Mount Carmel New Orleans for seven years, before heading to Abbeville where she taught for 10 years. During her career, Campbell received three master’s degrees in math, counseling and religious studies. Since she became principal of Mount Carmel Academy in 1980 and was appointed president in ’92, her warm and engaging presence has been felt by every student and faculty member.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded the school, Campbell was determined to rebuild. “We had a meeting in October 2005, for our seniors to get their rings, and that was the most powerful experience,” she recalls. “We told them that even though this looked like the pictures after the bombings of World War II, that when they came back in January, there’d be grass and flowers in the front of the school.” Campbell and her team fulfilled that promise.

Just five years after Katrina, Mount Carmel was honored as one of the nation’s Top 50 Catholic Schools and Campbell was just selected as the 2012 AdvancED Excellence in Education Award winner. Yet, she remains focused on the students. “If I can teach them to use their gifts, love God and lead them in the direction of excellence, then I will have really given something to this school and to our community.”

Mentor: My first mentor was Sister Mary Grace, the first principal I worked with at Mount Carmel Academy as a beginning teacher. In 1984, I was invited to serve on the state committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, now known as AdvancED, and through that group I’ve had many mentors who are great educators from public and non-public schools.

Defining Moment: In January 2006, after Hurricane Katrina, the day that I walked into the cafeteria to the 1,038 girls that came back to the school. It was such a miracle. The applause, the tears, the hugs – this is why I’ve done all of this all my life.

Advice to Young Women: Be who God wants you to be and be true to yourself. Know there’s a God who lives within you who guides and directs you. No matter what you choose to do, as long as you are true to the core of your own being where God dwells, you’ll be all right.

Goals: To establish a strong, positive succession plan so that the educational excellence and strong prayer environment here will continue beyond my presence. I also want to mentor and help people who aspire to be the kind of leader I am, in their own way.

Favorite Things about What I Do: The ability to communicate a message of God’s love and God’s forgiveness to everybody and to be able to work all the time at establishing a community of self-giving and abiding love.