North Vermilion's Byler named Louisiana's Principal of the Year
Tommy Byler never had much doubt about his career path.
Both of his parents were teachers, so he grew up with education in the forefront of his mind. For more than four decades, he saw the impact they had on students, academically and athletically.
Byler knew he wanted to try to have the same kind of influence.
"Helping kids was something I always wanted to do," he said. "I wanted to coach, and I also enjoyed the teaching part of it. I was fortunate to keep making moves and finding places where I could impact more kids."
Now the principal of North Vermilion High School in Maurice, it's clear Byler is having an impact. Last weekend, he was named the Louisiana Principal of the Year.
"It's been very surreal," he said of the honor. "To think that there are 1,500 public school principals and to be able to be an ambassador for all of them, it's a pretty good feeling."
Leadership qualities evident early on
Byler has long roots in Vermilion Parish. He has taught biology, physiology, physical science and algebra. He was an athletic director, head basketball coach and softball coach at Erath High.
At North Vermilion, he has been an assistant principal, athletic director and head football coach. Under his leadership as principal, the school has maintained its "A" rating from the state, and its overall score has increased from a 92.9 to a 119.0 over a three-year span.
Byler's success isn't surprising to Jerome Puyau, the superintendent of Vermilion Parish schools. Puyau has known Byler since 1991, when they were both starting their careers in education.
"His dad was a longtime coach at Erath High and one of my mentors," Puyau recalled. "I got to know Tommy, and I really saw a lot of potential in him. It's the way he interacted with students, his professionalism, his drive to be the best. He always wanted to find a student's talent or strengths and build upon them."
Byler said he's always tried to live and work with a philosophy of "lead hard, love harder."
"I think kids know how much I care about them," he said. "There's nothing I expect them to do that I won't do myself."
Award is opportunity for more growth
Although the award is a huge honor, Byler isn't resting on his laurels. He said he wants to continue the growth at North Vermilion and among public education in general. His recognition has already allowed him to connect with principals across Louisiana as well.
"I want to get principals involved in helping principals," he said. "I'm going to have opportunities to share ideas. I'm excited, and I'm going to learn as well. I was able to spend time with the other finalists, and I've already gotten ideas for improvements I can make in my own school."
Puyau said the recognition has the ability to inspire educators throughout Vermilion Parish.
"We see it as a huge win," Puyau said. "There are several schools in our district that are performing very well, and it's because they have all bought into doing what is best for individual children. We have a lot of great administrators and some of the best schools around, and this just really sends that message."