2024 Faces of Greater Baton Rouge

2024 The Face of Public School Education

East Baton Rouge Parish Schools

Ask Arien Poole to take on any task, duty or position at Westminster Elementary School, and he probably already has it covered.

“They don’t have to ask. If something needs to be done, I’m volunteering,” says Poole, one of EBR Schools’ outstanding educators.

In addition to being a popular fifth-grade math teacher, Poole has a myriad of other roles: SBLC/504 chairperson, tutoring coordinator, extended care coordinator, 4-H chairperson, science fair lead, Student Body Assembly coordinator, math content leader, PTO coordinator, mentor teacher, grade-level chairperson and Science Fair Advisory Committee member.

“My door is always open,” says Poole, a graduate of Southern University with a degree in computer science and business management. “I give back not just to my students but to the whole school, my parents and my community. Whatever they need, they know I will do it.”

A prime example was five years ago when Principal Richard Rattcliffe asked for a volunteer to teach fifth-grade math. Of course, Poole’s hand quickly went up, although he was an English language arts teacher then.

“I had never taught math before,” says Poole, who has been teaching for 10 years. “It was something I felt I could do. So I tried it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.” Rattcliffe says Poole stepped up to the plate.

“His confidence is what he led with, and what he led with is what I saw. It translated into a smooth transition,” Rattcliffe says.

The principal says Poole’s students have shown significant improvement in their math scores over the past three years.

Poole, who also holds master’s degrees from the University of Phoenix (information systems) and Grand Canyon University (elementary education), says he has found his calling after initially pursuing another career.

“It gives me a chance to give back to the youth,” he says. “My passion is to make sure they get their education.”

Ask Northeast High School academic coordinator Lisa Shaw what makes Meghan Smith an outstanding student, and Shaw is effusive in her praise.

“She’s an amazing young lady,” Shaw says. “She has a level of responsibility and accountability that’s a little above and beyond …She’s one of the quietest students in the class. You won’t even know she’s in the classroom, but she’s brilliant.”

Smith, a soft-spoken sophomore at Northeast, is a straight-A honor roll student who’s also excelling in dual-enrollment courses at Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College. She has earned top honors for LEAP scores and the Principal’s Award.

“My mom has always told me to do my best,” Meghan says. “It’s a mental thing for me. I always want to give my best shot in everything because you get a better outcome.”

Becoming a pediatrician is Meghan’s goal.

“I want to work around children, and I like helping people,” she says. No surprise to Shaw. “She’s made for greatness,” Shaw says. “Whether she wants to be in the medical field, she has all the ability. I can literally visualize her as an adult saving lives. I can see that and she has a heart for it.”

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