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Spirit of Acadiana: Sixty is the perfect number for 'Mr. C'

Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 23:06:15-04

Dateline: Lafayette High School, Lafayette, La.

It’s a place 82-year old Emile J. Concienne, Jr. has spent a day or two. “Yes, I have. 60 years. 30 years regular teacher, 30 years substituting. And nowhere else,” he says quickly. “Never in my career did I teach at another school.”

There you have it: 60 years for Emile Concienne at the home of the Mighty Lions. But earlier this week, ‘Mr. C’ (as he’s called) decided 60 years in education was enough. And with his age, diabetes, a history of heart disease--- you can mainly blame Covid-19. “I’ve got about five or six things running against me with this virus,” reasons Concienne, “and I don’t want to really expose myself.” There’s a brief pause. “I want to live.”

With his dad, plus multiple aunts and uncles in education, becoming a teacher, says Mr. C., was almost a genetic requirement, and Concienne was an extremely accomplished biology teacher. “In ‘73, I was chosen outstanding biology teacher of the state,” he adds proudly. Personal organization and a ‘do-it-now’ attitude was a trademark of his career, a trait Mr. C. says he got from his father. “I make a calendar. Monday, here’s what I have to do. Tuesday, I have to do this. And I check it off as I do it. But I don’t wait. I don’t hesitate. I never have and I never will.”

For much of his full-time career, he had to hold down two jobs. “It was tough, it was tough. The money I was being paid as a teacher wasn’t great; I’d leave here, go Sears, come back at 9:30, 10 o’clock at night, visit with my family for a little while.”

It was his job, and he was there for the kids, he tells me. “And at least the students respected that the whole time. When they saw me in there, they knew they had to do their work. ‘Don’t bother me, we’re not gonna’ have fun, we’re not gonna’ play games’.”

Fun facts about Mr. C.:

Why only Lafayette High for six decades?

“It was close to my house,” he laughs.

No ---really… why Lafayette High?

“I worked with some wonderful teachers. Wonderful. (Jean Brazda?) Yeh, you’re right. Close friend, too.” (Note: Jean Brazda was the mother of yours truly and taught English at Lafayette High for 20 years, from the early 1970s to early 1990s).

What frustrates him about the current state of education?

Right now, if the administration gives a direction, you’ve got all kinds of questions about it. ‘Why this, why that?’ Just do it,” he says quickly.

And if Mr. C. could change humanity in general?

“People? They don’t want to do right off what they should do; they want to examine it real carefully, and that’s what’s happening all over this country right now. And it really bugs me.”

He’s only 82-years young, and as for what happens next? “I asked the good Lord, ‘Let me live to be 104’. But I said, ‘One stipulation, Lord: I want to still be driving my car’.”

So, 60 years. One place, one profession…simply amazing. “It’s just…what I wanted to do.”

Moments later, Mr. C. and I took a quick visit to his old classroom, where he looked around, told a couple quick stories. Then, Emile Concienne pronounced his ‘farewell’.

“This is the remembrance of 60 years,” he said aloud. “I really enjoyed and will remember it the rest of my life.” Two steps later, came the final words. “Goodbye, Lafayette High.”

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