Spotlight: Jacob Miller, Southside Elementary

Mr. Miller is currently in his third year of teaching at Southside Elementary in Cleveland ISD. He is serving as a third-grade math and science teacher in our dual language program. Over the course of his short career, he has had accomplished being grade chair and participated in his school’s STEM club. He also attended the 2021-2022 aspiring administrator’s academy for Cleveland ISD. This year Mr. Miller became a mentor for student teachers through Cleveland ISD’s partnership with the University of Houston and was nominated for the 2022 Southside Elementary teacher of the year. His students have blossomed this year academically and he looks forward to continuing his career in the field of education!

Spotlight: Victoria Way, Jordan High School

Victoria Way is the founding Director of the Jordan High School Legacies Dance Team. She was the first Tompkins High School Crimson Cavalettes Assistant Director. Prior to opening Jordan High School, she established the first JV Dance Team at OTHS, Crimson Pride. She has instructed all levels of dance throughout her teaching career and truly loves the relationships she develops with all of her students. She has built the Legacies Dance Team and dance program at Jordan from the ground up and is passionate about resilient relationships with her students, building confidence in students and teaching them valuable life lessons through dance. She is passionate about fine arts advocacy and loves sharing with her students the ways that fine arts has impacted her life and can impact theirs, regardless of their future careers!

Victoria is a graduate of Texas State University where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Education with a minor in English. She currently holds teaching certification in dance, physical education as well as in English. Victoria was very involved in the Texas State University Dance Department, receiving several scholarships including the Gwen K. Smith Endowed Scholarship for Dance Educators. She is a former member of Orchesis Dance Company and danced in Austin, Texas for a semi-professional cheerleading team. Victoria was on her high school drill team, the Creekview Chevals, where she found her love of dance and served in leadership her junior and senior year. Victoria was also in orchestra all throughout her high school career.

She has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 6 years. They just welcomed their daughter Karsyn Elise into the world in May of 2021!

Spotlight: Teresa “Faye” Felder Black, Baytown Junior School

Upon selecting Ms. Teresa Black as a 2022 Appreciated Teacher Award Finalist, we were informed that Ms. Black unexpectedly passed away on April 24, 2022. In recognition of her accomplishments and with special permission from her family, the credit union is honoring Ms. Black’s nomination and including her in this year’s 2022 Appreciated Teacher Awards. Gulf Coast Educators FCU would like to extend condolences to Ms. Black’s family, her students, and the entire Goose Creek CISD community.

Teresa “Faye” Felder Black was a proud graduate of Ross S. Sterling High School – Class of 1981, Lee College and Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. An educator for the past twenty-one years, Faye excelled in her work. She was a beloved member of the Baytown Junior High (BJS) staff working as a Special Education Teacher since 2006. She thoroughly enjoyed teaching Language Arts & Writing Composition to 6th-8th graders. During her tenure at BJS, Faye also tutored students in STAAR objectives, implemented the “Fast ForWord” Reading Program and served as the Robotics UIL Coach and the Special Education Team Lead. Prior to teaching at BJS, she taught at St. Joseph School from 2001-2006.

Among Faye’s many accomplishments was implementing Science Labs in collaboration with retired ExxonMobil Scientists; leading after school tutoring through the GCCISD Title 1 program; serving as Student Council-Sponsor, OLWEUS Bullying Team member, 8th Grade Banquet-Planner, PTO Teacher Representative, sponsor and member of the Christian Student Union/Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Washington D.C. – School Trip Coordinator. She was also an AVID Team Member and actively involved in the Boys Athletic Booster Club.

Faye’s genuine commitment to educating and supporting students did not go unnoticed. While at St. Joseph School, she was awarded Teacher of the Year and the Monsignor O’Sullivan Teacher Excellence Award. She was awarded Teacher of the Year again at BJS for the 2018-2019 school year.

Spotlight: Lauren Palos, Stuchberry Elementary School

Lauren Palos is a first-grade self-contained teacher at Stuchbery Elementary in Pasadena ISD, a school in which 82% of the students are identified as economically disadvantaged. Ms. Palos is an alumna of Pasadena ISD and began her journey as a professional educator five years ago as Title 1 instructional aide, a role through which she serviced students in small groups for intervention and enrichment. She has spent the last four years teaching first-grade students, and Ms. Palos’s resiliency as an educator is evident in how she takes classrooms of six-year-olds who come from various backgrounds and with diverse needs and creates communities of mathematicians and readers within the walls of her school, a school in which she was once a student herself.

Ms. Palos’ unique blended learning teaching style, particularly with mathematics, is evident when you walk into her classroom and see her young students engaged in mathematics and empowered with strategies and tools to help them be successful with their learning. Her teaching style is student-directed and includes mathematics routines that promote students’ number sense such as Number Talks, Choral Counting, and Counting Collections; whole group and data-informed small group instruction that includes student engagement, student discourse, student use of academic language, mathematics tools such as manipulatives and toolkits, and the use of technology-based platforms to guide and monitor student learning; and data-informed workstations that promote students’ retention of previously learned concepts and proficiency with number-based fact fluency strategies. Because of Ms. Palos’ belief that parents are full-time partners in their child’s education, she has created two classroom initiatives, “Mystery Reader” and “Mystery Mathematician”, in which parents are invited into her classroom to participate in content-specific activities with all of her students. These initiatives have created excitement in her classroom and have empowered parents to feel confident as valued contributors to their child’s learning environment.

Ms. Palos’s instructional strategies have impacted the lives of her students and the success of the other teachers and students at her school and across her school district in many ways. Within her school community, she has facilitated campus presentations such as “Technology Training” and “Launching Seesaw” and served as a Team Leader, New Teacher Mentor, and Mathematics Vertical Alignment Committee Member. Ms. Palos has co-facilitated several initiatives at her campus including “Mathematizing the Campus”, “Mathematics Spirit Week”, and the district’s first ever elementary “Mathematics Bee”. Within her district community, Ms. Palos has facilitated district presentations such as “Seesaw for Reading Instruction K-2 Professional Development” and “Seesaw Updates for Mathematics Coaches” and served as an Elementary Mathematics Teacher Leadership Team Member, an Emerging Teacher Leaders in Mathematics Education Academy Member, and an exemplar classroom for virtual instruction and blended learning. She has supported numerous district-level mathematics curriculum projects such as “Mathematics Routines: Number Talks, Choral Counting, Counting Collections” and “Seesaw Digital Library for K-2 Mathematics” as well as district-level literacy curriculum projects. Ms. Palos was the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for Stuchbery Elementary.

Outside of her school and district community, Ms. Palos is active on Twitter (@LaurenPalos), a platform through which she shares the work of her classroom and connects with other educators throughout the nation. She authored the article” Choral Counting in Action” for the 2021 Fall/Winter Texas Mathematics Teacher journal, a publication of the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics (TCTM) and also received one of TCTM’s grants to purchase manipulatives for her mathematics classroom.

Ms. Palos is a Seesaw Learning Ambassador, a Kahoot! Certified Educator, a TCEA Certified Educator Effective Math: K-2, and a Flipgrid Certificated Educator and has presented conference sessions at the regional (Region 4 ESC), state (CAMT), and national/global (Seesaw Connect Global Conference) levels. She is a member of the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Texas Computer Education Association.

Ms. Palos’ commitment to educational excellence is evident in the ways in which she works to support her students’ success in mathematics while also supporting other mathematics educators in their efforts to ensure that all students learn at high levels. Ms. Palos is a particularly special teacher in that she is changing the trajectory of the lives of students at Stuchbery Elementary and it is evident in her students’ sense of efficacy with mathematics … and their performance in mathematics!

Gulf Coast Educators FCU’s 2022 Appreciated Teacher of the Year!

Mrs. Brandi Perry with her son. -Friendswood ISD

This year we received hundreds of nominations from over 31 different school districts across the state of Texas. Among all the nominations Mrs. Perry made it to the top five, ultimately winning her the title of GCEFCU’s Appreciated Teacher of the Year, with a total of 1,086 votes!

Mrs. Perry started her career with homeschooling her own children, substituting, and eventually being hired by Friendswood ISD as a paraprofessional while she completed her Texas Teaching License. While serving as a paraprofessional, she served in both pre-kindergarten and kindergarten populations. During this time, she was awarded with a “Making a Difference” award. This award recognizes one staff member for going above and beyond to support their students.

In 2017, after completing her Texas Teaching License, she began teaching full time as a certified teacher. When Friendswood’s district decided to become a full day Prekindergarten program in 2019, Mrs. Perry was one of the implementing staff members in the full day program. She was instrumental in choosing the curriculum, as well as setting the expectations and goals for the full day program. In 2022, she was nominated for Teacher of the Year by her campus peers. Their nominations recognized her for her work in the pre-Kindergarten department, work ethic, high expectations for my students, and positive attitude towards students with challenging needs.

Mrs. Perry prides herself on her student’s growth and tries challenging their minds to learn new skills every day. Aside from her personal struggles of her struggles of her own at home with her husband passing, she pushes herself to overcome her obstacles to show strength for her students. Her students exude happiness and life. Together they work together on being the best they can.

2022 Appreciated Teacher Awards

We Love Teachers. We would not be who we are without them.

As a teacher’s credit union, one of the many ways we demonstrate our support and gratitude for educators is through our Appreciated Teacher Awards. This is a recognition program that commends outstanding teachers within our field of membership, which now includes all districts and accredited schools in Texas.

A committee composed of credit union employees will select five finalists from all the nominations accepted to each receive an honorarium of $500, and be eligible for our 2022 Appreciated Teacher of the Year award. The finalists will be announced during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6), at which time the public may submit their vote for Appreciated Teacher of the Year. The finalist with the most votes will be announced and win a $2,500 grand prize.

We are looking for nominees that go above and beyond both in and out of the classroom. Educators that are resilient and exude confidence into their students’ lives and entice them to want to learn with their unique teaching styles. If you know of a deserving educator, we encourage you to nominate them by clicking the button below. The deadline to nominate someone is April 17, 2022.

Spotlight: Cathy Knauff, Klein Cain High School

Ms. Knauff is the CTE teacher at Klein Cain High School, and in addition to teaching video game design, engineering, and electronics, she is also the credit recovery coordinator. She is the co-sponsor for the National Honor Society, the Class of 2021, and is on the Board at Klein High for Swim & Dive. Being the dedicated educator that she is, she ensures that her current, past, or any student that needs her assistance is taken care of. As a demonstration of her kindness, she takes time out of her already busy day to offer counseling to those who need guidance or just someone to listen to them.

Ms. Knauff is not only a dedicated teacher but also a kind and thoughtful one that spends her own money to purchase snacks and water to keep in her classroom for her students. She is the teacher that students go to for help and will do everything in her power to assist in whichever way she can. When her students have specific questions regarding college, post-college questions, or need help with their course selection, she is always there to help them. One student said,” She has taught me more about life [in the sense of teaching me about] balancing my money, investing in the stock market, giving to those less fortunate, having a good credit score, helping me with recommendations for college/work and ideas on volunteer opportunities.” 

Her compassionate and benevolent ways are demonstrated in the way she leads the “Klein Cain Family Serves” a project that allows students within the district the opportunity to give back to the community that continuously supports their schools by working together on different service projects. She spends much of her “extra” time coordinating with various places and researching volunteer opportunities for students, so that kids from all grade levels, kindergarten through twelfth, can all have the experience of what it is like to give back to those less fortunate than themselves.

She knows that some students struggle, especially in high school and that sometimes the students that are considered “difficult” are the ones that require the most guidance. She builds relationships with these students and makes sure they know someone cares and values them. Additionally, she works closely with the counselors on campus to help students with their credit recovery. She wants her students to be successful, and she sets expectations and goals to get them on the path to graduation. She helps students with finding vocational jobs or certifications after high school knowing that college is not for everyone. She makes learning engineering fun for her students through her innovative teaching ways. She challenges her engineering students and sparks their creativity by allowing them to work on projects such as designing paper airplanes, paper roller coasters, Lego people, balloon cars, and so much more. She was nominated for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science; however, it was unfortunate when she had to drop out of the process due to a significant amount of damage to her home and her husband being ill. It is very apparent that Ms. Knauff does so much for her students and is deserving of this recognition for being a kind, compassionate, and selfless educator. It takes someone as special as her to shape young minds and lead them to believe that they can achieve great things.

Spotlight: Terri Pitts, Colonial Hills Elementary

Ms. Pitts is the P.E. Teacher at Colonial Hills Elementary in North East ISD. Her colleagues know her as a resilient and dedicated teacher that goes above and beyond for her students. In addition to not missing a day of school, she is also a team player and is always helping and finding ways to make her campus and community better. If she is not busy on campus or with virtual teaching, she makes it a point to be there for students that may need a little extra help.

As a physical education teacher, she makes it a priority to teach healthy habits and motivate her students to be lifelong movers. Additionally, she is passionate about teaching them lifetime wellness skills. As an innovative teacher, she excels at finding lessons that her students enjoy while meeting the National Association for Sport and Physical Education National Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Aware that children do not all learn the same, she varies her lessons to make them engage and to be inclusive of all learning styles. She uses visual and auditory instructions during her lesson explanations and will provide multiple opportunities and modifications because all she wants is to see her students succeed. The relationship Ms. Pitts has built between her students and their parents is superior and it is an evident demonstration of her character as she receives a great amount of support towards her PE program. She serves as a great role model for all through her healthy lifestyle of incorporating healthy eating habits and daily exercise. One of her colleagues said it best: “Terri, like most outstanding physical education teachers, is great at integrating other subject matters into her classroom; however, her incomparable gift to influence others to do the same with her subject matter places Terri above the rest.”

Like most incessant educators, she is always exploring new ways to improve the overall quality of her classes and P.E. programs. She attends various staff development sessions at both local and state levels and serves on local committees involved in improving the health and fitness of her community. Her tenaciousness is evident through her actions as she is always in pursuit of bringing recognition and funding to her campus. She is relentless in pursuing grants for Colonial Hill’s Elementary community garden and for their physical education program.

She maintains a positive and respectful relationship with her colleagues and administrators, and is viewed by them as someone whose life is ambition is to improve the life of her students. During her tenure at Colonial Hills Elementary, she’s had a momentous impact on the entire campus by implementing coordinated school health, gardening partnership with her campus school nutrition department, and bringing other community partnerships to the campus. Examples are; community garden, a Kids School Health Advisory Council, and an Action Based Learning Lab. Her ability to influence others to support her vision is part of what makes her an outstanding teacher.

Ms. Pitts is clearly a phenomenal teacher that will do everything she can to help her students, campus, and community. She is the epitome of what a great role model and mentor should be and does not confine herself to the walls of her classroom, but rather allows her positive morale to radiate wherever she goes. Her passion for the teaching profession is unrelenting and one that should be acknowledged as exemplary.

Spotlight: Arlevia Davis, Legacy High School

Mrs. Davis is a freshman biology teacher at Legacy High School in Mansfield ISD. Her colleagues, students, formers students, and those that know her would describe her as the teacher that sparks life in her classroom and teaching ways. Her energy is contagious, and her students enjoy learning and being in her class. She spends countless hours creating lesson plans for her students that are both engaging and interactive. Her students not only learn the material that they are being taught, but they also have fun during her lessons.

Mrs. Davis is an innovative educator and goes out of her way to ensure that her students learn and succeed in everything they do. Her primary focus goes beyond testing, and she encourages and challenges her students with thought-provoking projects or assignments. She is the type of educator that mentors her students and prepares them for all of life’s challenges both in school and out. She rewards her students not only when they get the correct answers, but also when she knows that they are putting forth their best effort, allowing them to gain confidence in both themselves and the subject.

Mrs. Davis’s dedication and love for teaching go beyond her classroom walls. To aid her students’ learning she created a YouTube channel to upload videos, in return, it has also allowed her to connect with other educators and students all over the world. Now known as “Sciyonce” her channel has gained popularity and she has over 1K subscribers. In her videos, she uses songs that are popular and well-known and changes the lyrics to correlate with the new material they are learning in class. One example is a song that she transformed into “Life, life, baby…”. She has rewritten over 25 songs into biology tunes to help her students connect to the subject and learn in a different and unique way. Her students and everyone that is interested can view her videos and learn from them. Additionally, she offers study guides, tips on how to form beneficial study habits, and the science behind teaching and physical movements. She also performs for her students live in her classroom.

In addition to Mrs. Davis being an exceptional Biology teacher, she is also a mentor for future educators. She enables them to be the next generation of great teachers, by treating them as partners and sharing the classroom with them. She guides them and provides them with the resources they need to succeed in the classroom. Her enthusiasm and passion for teaching truly radiate when she mentors these young students and helps mold them to be wonderful educators.

The last school year was a difficult year for most students and teachers. They were all facing so many uncertainties and feeling all the effects that the pandemic brought. However, Mrs. Davis never allowed this to dim her light and continued to be the amazing teacher she is. Despite all the obstacles teachers were faced with, she viewed virtual teaching as an opportunity for professional and personal growth. She remained in contact with her students and was always available to help them with whatever they need. Several students would describe her as a kind and compassionate teacher, one that offers them support, listens, laughs, and shares equally with them on their good and bad days. Mrs. Davis is truly a great educator that deserves so much recognition for everything that she does.

Spotlight: Margaret Olivarez, Copperfield Elementary

Mrs. Olivarez is a 3rd-grade teacher at Copperfield Elementary. During her time in Pflugerville ISD, She has demonstrated time after time that she is a dedicated educator. She is continuously evoking new ideas that allow her students, not just in her classroom, but overall campus, to go after their dreams and achieve them. Most recently her College T-shirt initiative gained great traction within her community, that eventually it received national attention. In efforts to teach students on her campus about colleges and universities, she encouraged students to wear college t-shirts. However, to her dismay, she came to the realization that many students did not own these t-shirts, nor did they the resources to obtain one.  It then became her mission to provide all students with a shirt to wear. She reached out to colleges, universities, technical schools, and all military branches in search of t-shirt donations. Before she knew it, donations from all over the country started coming in, and every student was able to own a t-shirt. In addition to this new shirt, they also gained the knowledge and understanding that pursuing an education after high school is an achievable goal.

Being an educator at a school labeled as a Title one campus, Mrs. Olivarez knows many of her students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. As most felt the effects and hardships that came with the pandemic, she saw firsthand how it was inhibiting many of her students from being successful. Once again, she was relentless in her efforts to ensure that the students on her campus were given the technological resources they needed to perform at their fullest potential. She spent her summer sending emails and making phone calls in an attempt to make this happen. Her unwavering support and determination to help her students allowed her to receive 100 Chrome books, Fire tablets, and $30K in monetary donations.

Another noted project that demonstrates Mrs. Olivarez’s benevolence and the way she cares for her students was her back-to-school backpack program. She set a goal to ensure that each student on her campus had a new backpack come the new school year. She stopped at no end until she achieved that. Knowing that most of the students on her campus come from low-income families, and the cost that back-to-school preparation can impose on these families, she made it a goal of hers to help them out. She wanted these students to be excited about going back to school and knew this small gesture would do that for them. Her determination to make this happen once again depicts what an amazing person and teacher Mrs. Olivarez is. She is persistent in her objective to help as much as she can and no goal of hers is ever unachievable.  For these reasons and more she deserves all the recognition for being such a kind and selfish educator.