However, at that time, little did Dubois, her family, nor the Erath community realize, that her next phase in life would encounter an odd twist of fate.
Just a month after retirement, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Though treatments seemed encouraging at first, eventually the cancer won. She passed away peacefully at 3:30 a.m, on Friday, leaving behind a saddened community. Dubois left behind a tremendous educational legacy in the small town.
David Funeral Home is handling the arrangements, which have yet to be made as of Friday afternoon.
Dubois was a 1963 Erath High graduate. After high school, she went on to earn a BA and Master’s Degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now UL Lafayette). Upon graduation, she returned to Vermilion Parish to begin her teaching career.
Dubois was hired by the Vermilion Parish School Board to teach in the “Follow Through-Head Start Program” in 1969 on the campus of Dozier Elementary. R.F. Dozier Elementary was closed in May 1968 due to integration. Dozier Elementary School was reopened in 1972, but Dubois remained with the Head Start Program for a few more years.
She returned to Dozier Elementary in the Fall of 1975 as a first grade teacher. Over the next few years, she taught each grade level from first through fourth grade. She eventually moved to kindergarten, where she taught for 33 years. She was named Dozier Elementary Teacher of the Year two consecutive years in 1988 and again in 1989.
When she retired in 2011, she left a legacy of four and a half decades of teaching the children of Erath. She taught over 900 students in her career. She retired with 45 years of service in the Vermilion Parish system, with 38 of those years at Dozier Elementary.
Dubois always credited her teaching inspiration to another Erath educator, the late Doris Mae Melancon, who passed away just last year. Melancon was Cecile Dubois’ 1st grade teacher.
When Dubois was still part of the Dozier Elementary staff, she stated on her faculty page “From the first day I met my first grade teacher, Mrs. Doris Mae Melancon, I knew I wanted to be a teacher just like her when I grew up. I have never regretted my decision. I have taught kindergarten through fourth grade with the last 33 years in kindergarten. I found it incredibly rewarding to see the growth and development which occurs in my students in their kindergarten year as they discovered the joy of learning.”
All of the students and parents whom she encountered can verify that Dubois went on to fulfill that dream of being a teacher who made a difference. A difference that many felt the humble teacher never truly understood.
When told of the death of Cecile Dubois, Erath attorney Robert B. Vincent remarked about the privilege it was to have her as his kindergarten teacher.
“In 1983, I can remember hanging tenaciously to my mother’s leg when I walked into Cecile Dubois’ kindergarten class. It was my first day at Dozier and I was terrified. I soon became aware of a presence that emanated warmth and compassion. At once, I knew I was in a safe place with a kind and gentle woman.
Today, as I reminisce with the passing of my kindergarten teacher, I re-read my old report cards from Ms. Dubois. She stated that “Robert is a pleasure to teach.” I don’t know how many other received those splendid words, but it made me feel special and warm all over again.
Dubois wrapped her arms and heart around generations of Erath students. She had no children of her own, yet hundreds of her former students feel she was their mother away from home. She made her students better people just by being around her.
“My mother, Jackie L. Vincent, had the opportunity only days before she died,” said Robert. “When she returned, I asked her how Ms. Dubois looked. She answered that ‘She’s radiant. She is very close to God.’ Somehow, I already knew that would be the answer.”
In a message upon her retirement, Vermilion Parish Superintendent Randy Schexnayder shared this with her. “I would like to personally thank you for all of the wonderful years you have dedicated to teaching the children in Erath.”
He also shared a message that was told to him when he left Indian Bayou as principal. He shared “the world may be a better place, because you were important in the life of a child.” He ended saying “Ms. Cecile, you were important in many children’s lives.” Dubois later shared with a former colleague how much his words touched her.
Many of her colleagues stated how much they admired her willingness to grow as a teacher through the unending changes and challenges in education.
Former colleague Stacy Bodin who worked with Dubois for 25 years said, “She always did what she felt was best for her students no matter what came her way and loved every one of her students throughout her career. She was and will always be the definition of a true and dedicated teacher should be!”
Dubois worked with several principals through the years. Karla Toups, her final leader at Dozier , said, . “Education and children were truly her life. She lived for school and her students. She had so much knowledge about educating children, yet was always so humble about it. She was a true educator!”
Dubois was the daughter of the late Gaston and Antoinette Dubois. She leaves behind one sister, Toni Dubois Moss and her husband Ramsey, two nieces, Donna Moss-Bergeron and her husband Chris, Tracy Moss Watson and her husband Eddie, as well as one nephew Chris Moss and his wife Nicole. She also leaves behind several great nieces and nephews.