When Center Street Elementary School math teacher Jenna Patout started the school year, she had a goal. She and Principal Kyla Aucoin had discussed finding room in the budget to get computers for her students.
That goal was reached Thursday when members of the community showed up at her classroom door with a cart containing 10 shiny new Chromebooks, all powered up and ready to go.
“They have that new car smell!” one of the students exclaimed.
Local businessman Beau Beaullieu said he knew BlueFin Group President David “Ducky” Pugh was looking for an outreach project for his company, so he put Pugh in touch with Iberia Parish School Superintendent Carey Laviolette, which got the ball rolling.
“We were looking for a way to provide the computers for her class, and Beau brought this to us,” Laviolette said.
Patout said she wanted enough computers for her classroom for half of her students to be able to work online at one time. The students use a web-based software platform called Zearn to enhance their math proficiency.
“The program is set up so half the students work online and the other half get traditional instruction, then they flip,” Patout said.
The students were all smiles as they took the laptops out of their storage cart, which not only provides a secure place to keep the computers but also serves as a charging station.
Aucoin said it was not easy keeping the donation a secret from Patout.
“Just last week she came into my office again,” Aucoin said. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to work this out.’ ”
The BlueFin Group, a New Iberia oil field technology company, made the donation as part of its “Human First” campaign to give back to the community.
“Last year, we gave to a local family that needed help,” Pugh said. “This year, we decided to open the blinders a bit and do something that had more of a community impact.”
BlueFin’s commitment goes beyond its local base of operations. It is owned by Gate Energy, a Houston company founded by New Iberia native Grant Gibson.
“I live in New Iberia,” Pugh said. “We’re a local company, and most of our employees live here.”
Having the new laptops to use in the classroom means Patout can be more focused on her traditional lesson plan to make sure the students stay on track.
“Both methods are good,” she said, with a smile. “But my teaching is better.”