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Farewell to Hodge

By Melanie Moffett
In Center Block
Jun 26th, 2014
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Lynn Hodge

Lynn Hodge Retires from Lexington

article by Michael DeVault | photo by Joli Livaudais

Lynn Hodge remembers precisely when she decided to become an educator. She was still young, and her mother’s best friend was a 1st Grade teacher. Hodge helped “Aunt Jane,” as she called her mother’s friend grade papers and prepare materials for class. “I just always knew I wanted to be a 1st Grade teacher,” Hodge said.

She realized that dream 37 years ago, when she stepped foot into a 1st Grade classroom in Houston, Texas. She was fresh out of college at LSU, and the Houston job was her first teaching position. Two years afterward, she returned to Monroe, where she had attended Georgia Tucker and graduated from Neville High School. After teaching for a few years in the Parish system, she became an assistant principal at Jack Hayes Elementary. A couple of years later, George Cannon hired her to take over Lexington Elementary School. On June 30, she said goodbye to Lexington, where she has served as principal for 20 years. It’s a bittersweet moment for Hodge, who says she has plans to use her time wisely. Still, leaving behind a school she transformed is tough.

“I have enjoyed all my years in education, and I loved my job, loved going to school,” said Hodge. Her dedication has paid dividends to the Monroe City Schools, too. During two decades at Lexington, the school rose to an “A” school–the best possible score for a school–and has consistently ranked at or near the top of every list of well-performing schools in northeastern Louisiana. While administrators have been quick to credit Hodge’s leadership, she’s got a different take on what’s driven success at Lexington: the quality of the teachers.

“That’s so very important, that you hire good teachers, and then you step back and let them do their stuff,” said Hodge. With good teachers in place, it was easier for her to step back and watch as teachers worked to meet her admittedly high expectations. “I expected the teachers to do what they were supposed to do.”

Hodge also wanted everyone that came to work at Lexington to show the same dedication and enjoyment she did. “They enjoy their work, so they want to come to work. I think it would be awful to have a job and not enjoy it.”

While she was principal of Lexington, Hodge instituted a razor focus on the accelerated reading program, which drives students to read books at an ever-increasing level. Beginning as soon as the children ccan read a sentence, they read constantly. Teachers focus on each student’s reading level, and no students are exempt from the program. “It was an on an individual basis, and students could grow. The more you practice, the better you get. So, reading was a very important part of our curriculum,” Hodge said.

She’s turning her attention now to paying forward the good experiences she’s had at Lexington and putting into larger practice the techniques that made Lexington a success. One of those experiences was working closely with The Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana to make sure Lexington students received the nutrition they needed. Hodge said she’s hoping to pay that help back through volunteering with The Food Bank.

She also hopes to become an advocate for effective policy at the state level, and sees herself working with the Legislature to craft bills that are beneficial to education. With the focus on education reform, Hodge thinks the state needs input from successful educators before new laws get made. “Some of the bills they’re working on really aren’t conducive to a school atmosphere,” Hodge said.

That’s all down the road, though, and Hodge isn’t planning too far ahead. She is looking forward to one particular aspect of retirement, and she laughs when she mentions it.  “I won’t have to set my alarm and get up to go somewhere. It’s going to be nice to be able to relax in that respect.”