There’s a real sense of family in Trailer T at Louisa County High School. It’s evident when you walk into Jelita Hopkins’s early morning theater class that the students genuinely love and respect her—and the feeling is mutual.
The theater and chorus teacher was named the Louisa County Educator of the Year on Thursday, May 9. During the ceremony, her attending students gave a big shout out when she was honored. Tears of joy trickled down the faces of several of her talented students.
“They are very sweet and, obviously, dramatic,” Hopkins said. “They don’t hide their emotions.”
The Louisa County High School Educator of the Year was surprised to learn that she had been chosen for that school’s William G. Thomas Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, particularly knowing who was on the final list of candidates, let alone the top honor.
Each of the county’s six schools bestow the William G. Thomas Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, named after a former LCPS superintendent, on a teacher from their respective schools, who is then eligible for the county-wide honor.
As a non-academic educator, Hopkins said it is validating to know that people see the hard work and things that are being done in her department.
Hopkins is passionate about what she does and is excited each day to work with her classrooms full of budding talent.
“The students are why I love this job. Teenagers are amazing,” she said. “I probably have the best students in the school.”
Many of her pupils are with Hopkins for four years and some take classes under her tutelage more than once a day. As a result, she gets to know most of them on a deeper level than teachers who may have a student just one semester.
“She works well with the students,” said senior Devin Ragland, one of Hopkins’s third-year students. “She pretty much helps the students become a different character and helps them get outside of their comfort zone.”
From day one, Hopkins said that her first priority is to create a sense of community within the students, because it’s such a risk-taking venture to stand up in front of people and sing.
“You’re really vulnerable when you’re taking a chorus or theater class,” she said. “So, the most important thing is to make them feel safe.”
To do this, Hopkins begins working with them on the first day of school to help them develop trust in each other and in herself.
“After a while, they become family. That’s the way it is,” she said.
Hopkins, who has 17 years of education experience, began teaching chorus at LCHS in 2004, and one theater class each semester to ease former theater teacher Peggy Sadler’s load.
To read the entire story, see the May 9 edition of The Central Virginian.