Rebecca Bonner is home, and she loves it.
Bonner, a Baskin native, is Franklin Parish High School’s new principal, and the 33-year education veteran says she feels right at home.
“I’ve always lived in Franklin Parish,” Bonner said. “This is home, and I love the students here. I get up every morning with a smile on my face.”
A graduate of Ward III High School, Bonner performed her student teaching at then Winnsboro High and taught English and American History from 1997 - 2007 through school consolidation. John Brown was her principal and also taught her history while a Ward III student. Additionally, she won Franklin Parish Teacher of the Year during her first stint at FPHS.
Bonner moved to Ouachita High School and during her 14-year stay she furthered her education with a master’s degree and was influenced heavily by Todd Guice, principal of OPHS.
“I saw Ouachita run so effectively and so well,” she recalled. “I watched what he did. I interned in his office, and on planning period and after school. He was the epitome of what a high school principal should be. He was passionate about what he did, and he was a phenomenal leader.”
While at OPHS, Bonner was promoted to freshman academy administrator before moving up to assistant principal in charge of personnel, master schedule and operations.
The hometown girl was making her mark in education and learning how to lead people but still had an eye for her beloved Franklin Parish. While moving through the ranks, she worked with curriculum, master scheduling and finance. Looking back, she credited God for His perfect timing.
“I feel like everything that happens is for a reason and part of the Lord’s plan,” Bonner said.
And through all of her on-the-job training and formal education, the timing was right when FPHS principal position came open.
“I thought I could reach more students (as principal),” Bonner said. “I thought I could have more of an impact in the school and the educational process, in the curriculum and all the facets of education.”
As first-year principal, Bonner has had to hit the ground running, but she was a little late to the race due to contracting COVID-19. Usually, she would have the entire summer to plan for the next school year, but the virus cut her time short.
Bonner worked hard to catch up and planned several new classes and events for FPHS.
Namely, an ACT prep course specially designed for individual students’ needs to improve scores. She was also overseeing former principal Brian Gunner’s CNA program at FPHS.
For teachers, Bonner established Patriot Printshop where a person makes all copies, staples or hole punches and delivers back to the teachers.
“This frees up time for the teachers to teach their classes and analyze the curriculum to make sure we are teaching what our kids need, so they can be successful,” Bonner said.
There is also plans to start a NCAA Clearing House preparation committee.
“Franklin Parish has some of the best athletes in the world in my opinion,” Bonner said. “This program will make sure they have every class they need, so if a Division I school looks at them, they will have all the classes and ACT scores necessary.”
The committee will look at every athlete and every sport in FPHS.
Plans for starting a Student Government Association are also in the works.
While walking the halls of FPHS visiting students and classrooms, Bonner remembers people like Ida Hoard who inspired her journey into education. Her desire is to inspire the next generation of teachers.
“She loved what she did and her passion made me passionate about teaching,” she remembered. “Those teachers inspired me to follow in their footsteps. I hope to inspire young people to be a teacher. I love what I do. This is year 33, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
She acknowledges without her husband, Mark, and their son, Christian, she would not be in her position now. Christian is in his second year of medical school at LSU Shreveport.
“There were many nights where they would eat a sandwich, or I would just pick up something (for dinner),” Bonner said, laughing. “But, they supported me.”
Through the years she has also drawn inspiration and strength from her parents, Huey and Alice Temple, who were enormous supporters of education.
Her mother was head of the cafeteria at Ward III School and recently passed away.
“Mother always wanted me to come home,” she said, wiping tears.
With the Franklin Parish lady home, Bonner said it was time to get to work and with her teachers. The sky was the limit.
“We have phenomenal teachers and such sweet kids at this school,” Bonner said. “I love being home. We are not where we want to be, but we are headed in the right direction. We will be. It is just going to take a little time.”