Spotlight On… John-Pierre’ LaFleur, Class of 2009 and New BRHS Sophomore Guidance Counselor
You really can come home again. Counted among the faculty and staff at BRHS are a number of graduates. We’d like to introduce you to one of our new staff members for the 2018-19 school year. John-Pierre’ LaFleur, Class of 2009, will be taking over as the sophomore class guidance counselor. Diane Sistrunk retired this spring after many years serving our students.
Graduates often recount how teachers and counselors provided inspiration, motivation and mentorship during their high school years. John Pierre’s journey from graduate to counselor is truly full circle. We discover that Dr. Sistrunk’s mentorship during high school set him on the path to teaching and today he will be providing that same academic guidance and emotional support for our students.
BRHSF: John-Pierre’ welcome to the BRHS family and thanks so much for visiting with us. Let’s start at the beginning, meaning high school years at BRHS. You’ve quite an impressive ‘roster’ of accomplishments; Mr. BRHS, BETA, Student Government Association, National Honor Society, Boy/Girls State to a name a few. What activities did you most enjoy and which ones made the most impact on you?
JPL: I enjoyed National Honor Society and SGA the most. NHS requires its members to accumulate a significant amount of community service hours. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect because I love serving others. The two activities that I used to gain most of my hours were working with the kitchen ministry at church and tutoring underclassmen students after school. SGA had a major impact on me because it gave me the opportunity to be a voice for my peers and organize different events on campus. SGA allowed me to work with teachers and students I probably would not have met if not in that role.
BRHSF: While at BRHS you had a unique relationship with Dr. Sistrunk. How did she provide that mentorship to you and what did that mean?
JPL: My mom taught Dr. Sistrunk’s grandchildren at Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts. Dr. Sistrunk was always so helpful while I was at BRHS. She was always willing to take some time to speak with me if I was in need of some advice or help with anything school/career related. This relationship continued past high school. In college and during my graduate school years I called and emailed Dr. Sistrunk for more advice on my potential career moves as well as to update her on where I was in the process. To this day, I am proud I was able to establish a significant relationship with her and I hope to build similar relationships with the students at BRMHS.
BRHSF: When we first met and visited, you told us that your parents have always been focused on education for you and your siblings. In fact, your mom is a retired teacher with over 30 years in the classroom. Did she also have an influence over your decision to teach?
JPL: Absolutely! My mom has been my greatest inspiration to become an educator. She instilled in me at a young age to have a “can-do” attitude. This is also a motto that she used in her classroom, and I can assure you that this motto will be something that I will share with students when they enter my office. My mom modeled her heartfelt love for children not only in the classroom, but in our neighborhood, and church.
BRHSF: Your post high school education includes a B.A from Southern University, two Masters degrees from John Brown University; Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counselor. Your next stop was teaching math in Arkansas. However, you felt like your purpose or calling as some would say was still in front of you? Talk about that and how you came to discover the job opening at your high school alma mater.
JPL: I called Dr. Sistrunk on a Friday in January to let her know that I was finished with graduate school and was wondering if she knew of any school counselor positions in the Baton Rouge area. It just so happens I was in town that weekend as well. So, she told me, “Wait a minute, John-Pierre’.” A phone call later she asked me to call Mrs. McCann. Later that day, I met with Mrs. McCann and was offered the school counseling position. It was truly a humbling experience for me, and I am grateful to be in this position. I have assured Mrs. McCann that I want to serve my alma mater and be the best school counselor ever.
As far as my calling, I enjoyed teaching students, but what I loved most was building relationships. Now that I am in a role that allows me to dig a littler deeper into the mental health of my students, I can finally see myself getting closer to my calling. My role as guidance counselor at my old high school? This is like a dream come true.
BRHSF: Now the real work begins; providing academic & mental health guidance to, oh let’s say, over 300 fifteen year olds. Piece of cake, right?! All humor aside, please share with our readers some of your methods and goals for providing the best possible service to students?
JPL: I have been in the student’s shoes before. So, first I would like to build a rapport with them. Of course, scheduling, grades, and vocational guidance will be a part of my job obligations, but I really want the students to know who I am, that my office and talking with me is a safe environment. As far as ideas go, I would like to possibly implement a sophomore class Twitter/Snapchat, if possible. I also look forward to building relationships with students during those times that they are in class, while eating lunch with their groups and sitting in on club meetings.
BRHSF: You mention social media; how can a guidance department use that as a positive communications asset. It seems that social media is a double edge sword; it can be very good or very destructive during the high school years.
JPL: I agree social media can be tricky. So, for starters I would only open up the page for news. I know students are posting and checking other students’ uploads. So, while they are doing that, I can also place reminders for them about schedules, grades, and tutoring services. I cannot promise that this will be done, but it is an idea that I think will help me relate and further reach students.
BRHSF: While doing some background research for this interview, we discovered a recent trend for school Guidance departments to adopt a mission statement and counselors to have a personal mission statement. The statement provides clarity and gives you a sense of purpose; it defines who you are and how you will live. Is that something that resonates with you?
JPL: Yes it does. I know how important it is to reflect on my mission statement. My personal mission statement is to help individuals and families solve problems so that they have the confidence to achieve any goal that they have set for themselves. I will do this by being an empathic listener.
BRHSF: We also talked about the work and mission of the BRHS Foundation, providing support to faculty, staff and students by way of time, talent and treasure. As a grad and now a staff member, talk a little about what that means for you.
JPL: Support as a student is very different in comparison to providing the support as a school staff member. However, since I was a student at this school I think that gives me a little bit of an advantage in providing support to other teachers, because I know some of them already. It also helps with providing support to the students because I was in their shoes less than ten years ago. I want everyone who is a part of the BRHS community to know I am here for the betterment of BRHS and I want to keep raising our banners high!
BRHSF: We are so excited to have you on board at BRHS. Best of luck and let us know if we can be of service to you, the department and the students.
JPL: Thank you very much. I really want to make a difference at BRHS, and I am looking forward to being a counselor that students feel comfortable around. This has been quite an experience for me and I am honored that I was asked to be a part of this Spotlight On interview.
John-Pierre is married to Dawn, a CPA, and they have a seven year old daughter, Dallas, who will be attending Forest Heights Academy, a dedicated magnet school in EBR.
John-Pierre enjoys spending time with his family. He also loves to travel and enjoys watching different sitcoms and series with his wife in his spare time. One of his favorite books is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson.
A favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”