20110831-ABIZcover-0108Holly Boffy: In it to win it

When Holly Boffy decided earlier this year to run for the District 7 seat on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — the state school board for public education — one of the first people she clued in was her 4-year-old son, Pierce.

“As a matter of fact, he comes to vote with me. Before I told a few people I told him and explained that when we go vote, I’m going to put my name in and it’ll be on the ballot,” Boffy recalls. “And he asked me what for and I told him for an education school board, and his response was that he would get the parents at his day care to vote for me.”

Pierce, it turns out, may have a future in campaign management. “We did a Fourth of July parade in Erath and he threw cups and hollered, ‘Boffy for BESE.’ He’s very much a part of it,” the 2010 Louisiana Teacher of the Year recalls with a laugh.

Boffy earned the coveted Teacher of the Year nod for her work teaching social studies to gifted students at Paul Breaux Middle School in Lafayette. The honor put her in the running for the national award, which meant a lot of travel in 2010. In January of this year Boffy left the public education arena and took a position with Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, a statewide educators’ group for which she serves as director of professional development and university programs. Boffy took the job in part because the flexibility of the position — she works from home when she isn’t organizing and attending professional-development workshops and seminars — allows her to spend more time with her family.

An alumna of Abbeville High School and LSU, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education — Boffy has taken a leave of absence from pursuing her doctorate through Walden University while she runs for BESE — the top-notch teacher actually pursued an education degree to become a principal. Early on at LSU, however, she realized the classroom was more suited to her talents.

The East Texas native moved to Vermilion Parish when she was a fourth grader, but her sense that teaching is a vital service to society was instilled early on. You might say it’s genetic.
 “My grandfather was the superintendent of a small school district in East Texas,” Boffy explains. “He was an educator, and when I was growing up — he passed away when I was 2 — he was a hero to everybody that I knew, so he made education look like a noble profession. My grandmother was a first-grade teacher, and people in the community had so much respect for them. After he passed away, maybe I was 7 when the town honored him with an award, and the plaque for that award hung in my grandmother’s house, and every time I passed by it I was reminded of the difference people can make as educators.”

The BESE District 7 covers most of southwest Louisiana — Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, Vermilion and a few precincts in St. Landry — and campaigning in such a wide swath of the state is time consuming, to say the least.

“It’s a large district — we have a lot of ground to cover,” she admits.

Throw in a full-time job and being a wife and mother into the mix, and there’s little time for anything except family, work and the campaign trail.

“Every waking minute is devoted to one of those,” Boffy acknowledges. “And I think like all mothers you have 16-hour days and you sleep at night. But with a campaign in particular, there’s not time for anything else.” — Walter Pierce

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