● Published by Robert Frey
Catholic High School’s Principal Dr. Stella ArabieBy Hailey Hensgens Fleming
Being an educator can be an extremely rewarding profession, especially when you feel it’s exactly what you’ve been designed to do. Such is the case for Dr. Stella Arabie, the third year assistant principal at Catholic High School and 20 year educator who has been officially named the school’s new principal, effective in the 2018-2019 school year. With an identity deeply rooted in family and the Catholic faith, as well as an extensive history with the school, it’s a role she feels uniquely equipped to undertake.
Claiming New Iberia as home, Dr. Arabie explains she was born in Crowley, but has lived in New Iberia for as much time as she can remember. She had a very humble upbringing, as one of 11 kids born to two educators who had to leave their professions in order to support the family. Despite the cost, her parents highly valued a Catholic education and placed it as a top priority for their children. For that reason, Dr. Arabie was able to attend Catholic High, where she graduated as valedictorian in 1995.
Dr. Arabie learned a diligent, faith-centered work ethic and gained a special appreciation for the opportunity that had been afforded to her. “We were all always taught, ‘To those much is given, much is expected,’” she explains. “For us, there was not an opportunity to give monetarily. To give of our talents and to give of our time is what we had.” That lesson has permeated nearly every facet of her life and instilled in her an innate desire to serve. This desire, she claims, was reinforced through her education at Catholic High, “I am a servant leader. My Catholicity, my faith and my family drive everything that I do and that was strengthened during my time here.”
After high school, Dr. Arabie pursued a Bachelor’s degree at UL; an opportunity she claims was another sign of God’s grace on her life. “I was blessed again, through certainly the committed effort of my parents and everyone at Catholic High, to get a scholarship to be able to attend,” she says. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go to school.” Although she wasn’t sure what career path to pursue, she knew one thing: she was good at math. “I clearly knew, these are my strengths and I wanted to be able to give back. So then how do I use my strengths to serve?” she recalls pondering.
She chose to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree in applied mathematics. Upon completion, she began a master’s program and had the opportunity to teach math at the college level. That April, Dr. Arabie felt God’s calling on her life after receiving a phone call from home.
Donald “Doc” Voorhies, who was working as a teacher as Catholic High, called Dr. Arabie to ask for a favor. His veteran math teacher was retiring and he found himself struggling to find a replacement. “He said, ‘I need you to come.’ And, of course, I came! No one can ever say ‘no’ to a favor from Doc!” she laughs.
Five years after becoming an alumnus, Dr. Arabie began teaching math at Catholic High – a fateful step that set her on the path to where she is today. Dr. Arabie explains, “When Doc called me to come back, that was really when I began to think of myself as an educator and to think that this is really where God’s called me. This is my vocation.” She credits her peers and her family for the revelation, “That’s kind of been what has formed this path - listening to God’s call through those people that I trust and respect, such as Doc, my parents, the Catholic community.”
In the years that followed, Dr. Arabie dove in head first, teaching everything from pre-algebra to advanced placement calculus, as well as a few computer technology courses. She stayed true to her mantra of “giving back.” Dr. Arabie recounts thinking, “If this is where I’m called to serve, then what do I need to do to be better at that?” She chose to continue her Masters program while teaching to obtain a degree in Curriculum and Instruction rather than a mathematics discipline. She adds, “It truly changed my direction in my grad program.”
Not only was Dr. Arabie given the opportunity to grow as an educator during her years as an instructor, but also to grow as a leader. “I’ve been blessed with many “firsts” in my career and starting the girls soccer program here was one of them,” she says. In addition to working with and learning from multiple other instructors and coaches around New Iberia, the experience taught her a great deal about leadership. “In athletics, you really have to be a leader,” she explains. “Even though I didn’t realize it was happening at the time, I was being put in so many situations where I had to be able to lead.”
Similar educational and leadership opportunities continued to present themselves throughout Dr. Arabie’s 18 years as a teacher, offering chances to gain new skills and expand her expertise. She worked on a grant for Promethean boards and served as curriculum leader and department head at Catholic High. She was a part of a new school start-up in Lafayette where her logical and analytical character was challenged with several difficult tasks, and in 2015, she achieved her doctorate degree in educational leadership. “People at the time, gave me the opportunity,” she says. “They approached me and said, ‘I think you’ll be good at this. Will be a part of our team?’ And, those opportunities just began to multiply.”
Looking back, Dr. Arabie knows it was the accumulation of those opportunities that pushed her to where she is. “It was never something that I said, ‘Oh, I want to be an administrator and I’m going to go and do it.’ It was those around me identifying gifts and talents, things they saw in me, and then giving me the opportunity to grow,” Dr. Arabie states humbly. “For me, to see that is a sign from God and I’m going to say ‘yes’ to the call.”
This year, opportunity knocked once more after current principal, Ray Simon, announced his retirement in November. With the support of her husband of 21 years, Anthony Delcambre, and her four children, Zachary, Rebecca, Emily and Jacob, Dr. Stella Arabie will be stepping into the role of Principal at Catholic High in the 2018-2019 school year. She will become the school’s first female principal as well as the first principal to serve while her children are in attendance. “I see this as God’s call to step into that role at Catholic High and when you see God’s plan unfolding before you it’s so invigorating,” she beams. “I’m confident in our team and we have so many things going in the right direction.”
Although exciting, Dr. Arabie understands the burden of the task. “I feel the responsibility and I know how important this is,” she says. “Because I’ve done it before, I was a principal at another school, it’s not daunting in the ability to get the job done. Rather, it’s the desire to do it well, to really make a difference as a part of a team and to honor the legacy of the 100 years that have come before.”
The first thing you must have in order to tackle a challenge are the correct tools and Arabie is prepared, uniquely equipped with a wide variety of skills and experiences to get the job done. “I’ve been a part of Catholic High in so many capacities - from a student, to a teacher, to a parent. Even when I left Catholic High and was working in Lafayette Parish for a while, my children were still here,” she states. “So, being able to see the school from all of these different views has really confirmed the call from God. This is the place we’re supposed to be together to serve Him, to serve our students and to serve our families.”
Focusing on the family, the Catholic High family as well as her own, remains a priority for Arabie as she assumes this new role. “It’s important to me to maintain those relationships with students, parents and families – the relationship of respect and trust that I know is earned,” she says. “For us as a school and for me as a principal, we’ll be able to develop those relationships of trust and respect through our actions, especially when it comes to how we deal with children,” she adds.
Catholic High will continue to serve, with Dr. Arabie at its helm, making a difference in the lives and families of students’ throughout Acadiana. “I was given the opportunity to take my God-given talents to pay it forward and that’s really what I seek for my students. That is what Catholic high, the Faith and the family is all about,” she states. “Once we identify a student’s God-given talents, how can we help strengthen those to become all they can be? That is what our vocation is. That is what our mission is.”
Whether it’s time spent at work with her peers, delving into research for personal enrichment or cheering for her kids on the soccer field sidelines, Dr. Arabie’s passion for serving, paying it forward and teaching others to do the same always shines through. She quotes the old saying, “One-hundred years from now, no one will remember the house you lived in or what kind of car you drove. It’s going to be the difference you made in the life of a child or the life of someone else that will matter.” She smiles and adds, “I feel like I can do that. That’s my gift that I can share.”