Stephen Goodly, High School State Teacher of the Year, recently recalled the very moment he decided to make teaching his life’s passion. At the time, he was a beginning college student full of plans for a career in computer science. That plan took a drastic turn one day after witnessing chaos in a New Orleans classroom. He recalled driving his mother to a meeting at a middle school and sitting in the hall waiting. From his vantage point, he could see children in a nearby classroom swinging from the light fixtures despite the fact that a teacher was in the room.
“The next day I went and changed my major from computer science to education,” Goodly said. When his mother asked why he’d made the change, he remembered telling her: “Because they need me.”
Now, after 24 years of teaching math, he basks in accolades that started last fall when he was selected teacher of the year at Warren Easton Charter High School. The principal at the time pushed him to apply for the Louisiana teacher of the year and for a New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award. He won the New Orleans award along with six others and became a finalist for the state award. The 2018-2019 Louisiana Teacher of the Year award went to someone else, but he got the next best thing: Recognition as the best high school teacher.
In fall 2017, when he was asked to apply for the award, he initially declined. “I don’t need to do it,” he remembered saying. “I just got my recognition today.” A girl that morning had said, “Mr. Goodly, you are my favorite teacher.” He didn’t know the girl because he’d never taught her. “That touched me,” he said.
“Mr. Goodly is more than a teacher,” Kendall McManus, assistant principal at Warren Easton, said. “He is a mentor to me. He is a father figure to me, and he is that way with the children.”
The “everyday quality instruction” that Goodly brings to the classroom is reflected in student test scores. In 2017-2018, 80 percent of his Algebra I students scored “good” or “excellent” on end-of-course tests.
Instruction is in Goodly’s DNA. Both parents were educators – his father is a high school history and French teacher, and his mother is an elementary school teacher. Teacher-talk even stretches deep into his evening hours because his wife Angela Goodly teaches math and science.
Goodly’s teaching career took a winding path from grade school through college. When he graduated from Southern University of New Orleans in 1995, he couldn’t find a position teaching high school math, his chosen field, so he took one teaching elementary school. He taught at the elementary level for only one year before securing a position at the high school level, but he says it turned out to be a fortunate detour. The skills he learned working with younger students, help him deal with older students who struggle, he said.
Hurricane Katrina sent him to Maryland, teaching for a while. Later, after completing a master’s degree in education technology, he took on teaching stints at the College of Southern Maryland. In 2008, he returned to teaching high school in New Orleans. Now a math coach for other teachers, he continues to apply a sacred motto: “There is no quitting.”