Skip to main content

Acadiana Lifestyle

Looking On The Bright Side Of Life

07/18/2017 07:00AM ● Published by Christy Quebedeaux

Gallery: Melissa Chastant-Huval [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

Local Educator Honored For Work As An Advocate Of Special Needs Education 

By Kari Walker


Cheery, caring and courageous-—that’s how New Iberia native and educator Melissa Chastant-Huval could best be described. It only takes one encounter to feel her passion for children and education and know she’s always on a mission to polish up a star to shine. 

As an educator for the past 15 years, Chastant-Huval takes pride in inspiring her students and paving the way for opportunities for learning. Most recently, she was a special education resource teacher at North Lewis Elementary and this fall will join Loreauville Elementary to launch a pre-kindergarten special education program. 

“The Loreauville community is so excited for this program—there was a need to have a program like this so children could stay at their community school and not move to another school for a special needs program,” she explains.

Sometimes for Chastant-Huval teaching is like looking in a mirror of her childhood. She too understands how difficult it can be to learn in a classroom when extra time and attention is needed to grasp core concepts. 

“I’m actually a special education student myself—I’ve had many angels help open doors for me,” she tells.

At birth, Chastant-Huval’s mother and father were told she would not be like other children—she was not expected to live a fully functioning life due to complications of a high-risk pregnancy. Chastant-Huval was classified as learning disabled as well as hearing and speech impaired.

She knows without support and help over the years, she would not have been able to pursue higher education with the label as a special needs student. 

She has exceeded all expectations of her doctors by thriving and it’s evident by the impressive education Chastant-Huval has pursued: she holds a bachelor’s in both sociology and education, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, as well as special education and educational diagnostician certifications.

 “My friends and family were such strong advocates for me to be where I’m at today.” It’s because of this encouragement to succeed she is passing on the gift of education to her students. “My reason for teaching, is to give back to the community and special education students—I want to help open doors and find a student’s potential, gifts and allow them to shine and soar like an angel, just like I have,” Chastant-Huval says.

She focuses on the belief that any child can achieve more than what’s expected, no matter the circumstance. 

“My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter what star you’re born on—it just matters what you do to let your star shine.” 

This year Chastant-Huval will serve as president for the Louisiana Council for Exceptional Children. This council of educators is guided by the mission to set the standard for high quality education for exceptional students as well as serve as a resource for special education teachers. 

Her charge this year will be continuing the development of inclusion teaching.  

“We are looking at how laws will change for special education—how special education will merge into general education. We are working on collaborating with teachers working with all student levels,” she explains.

In the past, the model of teaching special needs has leaned towards pulling out students for separate instruction, but the trend is towards teaching one curriculum challenging all students at any need level. Her experience working in small groups within a larger classroom has been productive in meeting challenges of learning needs. 

Approaching teaching from multiple angles yields the most effect in Chastant-Huval’s experience. Utilizing collaborative methods helps everyone in the classroom.

“As teachers, we all are accountable for all the students— the regular classroom teacher would teach on a higher level and then I would be able to come in and work with visual and kinesthetic learners and do more hands on teaching trying to meet the needs of all sensory learning,” Chastant-Huval explains on collaborative teaching.

She strongly believes this type of practice will be the most effective way to teach as it not only helps those with special needs, but also reinforces course work for the class as a whole. 

“It’s beautiful in the classroom to see two adults teamed together presenting and all of the students are working together—when some students gets a skill, they might break into small groups and help each other. It always works where one student can help another and they both learn. The whole point is to teach for a lifetime of skills,” she stresses.

Chastant-Huval’s passion is not unnoticed as she recently received the honor of the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) award. This recognition pays tribute to those working in dedication to teaching the disabled. She was nominated by fellow teacher, Jeanneé Hebert, and other professional colleagues who see the passion poured out in her work.  

Winning this award is more than an accolade to add to Chastant-Huval’s list of achievements, it’s another door opening to continue her passion on advocating for special education. 

“I am finally able to open up about myself—I really didn’t speak before on being raised as a special education student,” she says on her honor. “It’s opened so many doors for my students and their parents. I go in stores and other parents see me and pull me aside and ask questions—I’m all about advocating and that’s why I teach.”

Her students now know more about her struggles and that she’s been in their shoes. Sometimes they cry together and sometimes they laugh about the experiences they have in common, but in the end it’s about the privilege to be part of a student’s life and improve their outcomes. 

“I teach the value of self-worth—when students see their academic growth, they realize potential. This is when self-image becomes positive—this is the beauty of education. I have to polish their stars just like many educators have polished my star,” Chastant-Huval explains. “My educational experiences are constantly reminding me to look for that sunshiny star.”

Beyond the classroom, Chastant-Huval spends her time leaning on her rock, her husband, Gerald Huval, who supports her continuing mission to serve the community. She also recharges through yoga and Pilates and volunteering with the Berry Queens. “We volunteer in the community and raise money for Habitat for Humanity. My queen name is ‘Queen Smiley’,” Chastant-Huval beams. 

There’s no better nickname suited for this community leader on a mission to encourage all in her path to shine their brightest star.  

In Print, Life+Leisure, Today Melissa Chastant-Huval Special Needs Education
  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/23/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/24/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Artist Talk with Steven Breaux

    10/25/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Explore the work of UL Lafayette Professor of Visual Arts, Steven Breaux. This talk is presented ...


  • Ladies Night Karaoke

    10/25/2017
    09:00PM — 02:00AM

    Double whammy! Not only is Karaoke back every Wednesday, but so is Ladies Night! Ladies, come in ...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/26/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Movement Lab is a group of dance artists and enthusiasts that come together to explore and experi...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/27/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/23/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/24/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Artist Talk with Steven Breaux

    10/25/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Explore the work of UL Lafayette Professor of Visual Arts, Steven Breaux. This talk is presented ...


  • Ladies Night Karaoke

    10/25/2017
    09:00PM — 02:00AM

    Double whammy! Not only is Karaoke back every Wednesday, but so is Ladies Night! Ladies, come in ...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/26/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Movement Lab is a group of dance artists and enthusiasts that come together to explore and experi...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/27/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Halloween Bikes and Barks Pet Fest

    10/28/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Come on out with your family and pet to celebrate Halloween. Dog,kid and adult costume contest $5...


  • Blessing New Iberia Harvest Festival

    10/28/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Please come out and support Blessing New Iberia 2 nd Annual Harvest Festival. There will be ve...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/28/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Make & Take Halloween Container Garden

    10/28/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Dig in this fall seminar Make & Take workshop to create a festive Halloween container garden comp...


  • Entry Fee $ 3.00. Live Band performance by Gerald Broussard Jr- The Cajun Cowboy and the Stirrup...


  • Jamie Bergeron & the Kickin' Cajuns

    10/29/2017
    03:00PM — 09:00PM

    Bar hours 3-9 p.m. Happy Hour 3-4 p.m. Live music from 4-8 p.m. 21+ ONLY


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/30/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • We were so excited about our last CAN meeting and can’t wait to see everyone again. At this meeti...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    10/31/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Pumpkin Palooza

    10/31/2017
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Join us on Tuesday, October 31st for a Halloween filled night for all ages. There will be games, ...


  • Toddler Time

    11/01/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Parents and their children will enjoy story time, songs with finger play, participate in a hands-...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/01/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • UL Dance Department Showcase

    11/01/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us for a night of dance at the museum! University students will perform solo and duet pieces...


  • Ladies Night Karaoke

    11/01/2017
    09:00PM — 02:00AM

    Double whammy! Not only is Karaoke back every Wednesday, but so is Ladies Night! Ladies, come in ...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/02/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Authors Fall Fest

    11/02/2017
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Join Acadiana Authors, Anne Simon, Margaret Simon, Peter Lagarde, and Paul Schexnayder, for a liv...


  • Ladies Night

    11/02/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    You're Invited to our Free Ladies Night on November 2 from 6-8pm! We'll have free Wine, Hors d'oe...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/03/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/04/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Make & Take Salad Bowl

    11/04/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Dig in this fall seminar Make & Take workshop to create a salad bowl container garden complete wi...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/06/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Scotch Doubles (10)

    11/06/2017
    06:00PM

    Join us every other Monday for our Scotch Doubles tournament. Registration starts at 6p, tourname...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/07/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/08/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • History Department Teach-In

    11/08/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    The UL Lafayette History Department will be hosting a talk on the “Uses and Abuses of History in ...


  • Ladies Night Karaoke

    11/08/2017
    09:00PM — 02:00AM

    Double whammy! Not only is Karaoke back every Wednesday, but so is Ladies Night! Ladies, come in ...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/09/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/10/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Poetry Reading with Poet Laureate Jack Bedell

    11/10/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Jack Bedell, Louisiana’s newest Poet Laureate, will read selections from “Revenant” and “Bone-Hol...


  • Poetry Workshop with Jack Bedell

    11/11/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    Dig deeper into the written word with a pilot poetry workshop led by Jack Bedell. The workshop wi...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/11/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


  • Join in this free fall seminar on everything you need to know on fall planting, pruning, the tool...


  • Yoga in the Galleries

    11/11/2017
    11:00AM — 12:00PM

    Join us on the second Saturday each month for yoga at the Hilliard Museum led by an RYT-200 certi...


  • Chili/Gumbo Cook-off 2017

    11/12/2017
    03:00PM — 05:00PM

    All of Acadiana is welcome to join The Bayou Church for our annual Chili/Gumbo Cook-off! Along wi...


  • Spell-a-bration

    11/12/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Join us for Spell-a-bration 2017 - a spelling bee for adults! Teams of 3 will compete for the ann...


  • Shadows at The Shadows

    11/13/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Photographer and filmmaker James Edmunds' will be displaying his most recent photographs in a new...


New! Read The Issue Online

 

2017 Discover Iberia

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Interested in:
Email Format