Gulf Coast Educators FCU’s 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year!

Mr. Akash Patel- Dallas ISD

This year we received 1,300 nominations from over 167 different school districts across the state of Texas. Among all the nominations Mr. Patel’s made it to the top five, ultimately winning him the title of GCEFCU’s Appreciated Teacher of the Year, with a total of 1,187 votes!

Mr. Patel is the Spanish/World Languages/LPAC Chair at Ignite Middle School. He was selected by our committee for his distinguished accomplishments. He is a well-traveled Spanish teacher that has visited over 50 Countries and speaks a total of five languages, very impressive! As an educator that teaches at a Title 1 ACE, 100% low socioeconomic middle school, he works with students that come from challenging backgrounds and most have never traveled outside of the country. However, through his travel and life experiences, Mr. Patel has been able to enhance his teaching methods and provide valuable content for his students when designing his lesson plans.

In his first year as a teacher, he was recognized by the State Department of Education and the Multicultural Education Institute as the January 2015 Educator of the Month and the 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year. This recognition was earned by Mr. Patel for his achievement in promoting global citizenship and accomplishing a successful academic turnaround. Not only this but he was also inducted in the International Literacy Association’s 30 Under 30 list and was previously selected as one of the World’s Top 50 Teachers and shortlisted as a finalist for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. Additionally, last June, Mr. Patel was elected to serve the 2020-2022 term on the National Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).

Mr. Patel’s passion to be able to connect his classrooms with people and professionals worldwide is evident in his accomplishments. What started off through social media and virtual platforms later transformed Mr. Patel to become the founder of Happy World Foundation, a Texas-based global education non-profit. This organization promotes global citizenship education, citizen-to-citizen diplomacy, and cross-cultural understanding in schools and communities worldwide.

Mr. Patel strives to be an exceptional teacher and serves as a mentor to both his students and colleagues. He speaks at regional, national, and international conferences on his classroom experience, and has also trained over 40K educators to use the Global Connect database and other multicultural programs. Thanks to Mr. Patel’s accomplishment and through Happy World Foundation’s global education programs, thousands of American children travel to countries worldwide. Please help us in congratulating Mr. Patel for this outstanding achievement and going above and beyond what is required in the classroom to provide these resources for his students.

Cast your vote – 2021 Appreciated Teacher Awards

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. For our 2021 Appreciated Teacher Awards, we received 1,300 nominations from over 167 different school districts across the state of Texas. A committee composed of credit union management team members selected five finalists from all the nominations received.

We are asking the public to please help us select our 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year. You can cast your vote by clicking the button below and submitting the online form before May 8, 2021. The finalist with the most votes will be awarded the title of Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union’s 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year and receive a $2,500 grand prize. The remaining finalists will receive a $500 honorarium. The 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year will be announced the week of May 17, 2021.

2021 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 2021 Appreciated Teacher of the Year award. The finalists will be announced during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7), 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 18, 2021.


Spotlight: Yoon Kim, McNeill Elementary

Mr. Yoon Kim is Kindergarten teacher at McNeill.  Mr. Kim is known for not letting his students move along to the next grades without keeping contact with them. He keeps up with his students by creating after-school clubs to continue working with them throughout their school years. This year, he began teaching his entire class for two hours after school in all subjects; just for the enjoyment of watching their skills continuously flourish. In his after-school club, he teaches art and drama that helps foster each student’s individual strengths.  He has also created an additional club for fourth and fifth grade students, meeting twice a week, for two hours each time. This club is a Media, Cinema, and Arts Club, where he teaches his students all aspects of: screenwriting, storyboards, camera, lighting, sound production, and acting.  The club’s last movie, which reflected student voices and their viewpoints of the world around them, was recently recognized at a school district board meeting.

Additionally, Mr. Kim records videos and creates photographs for social media for his campus.  Annually, he creates hundreds of 5th grade professional student portraits and gives them as gifts for the departing 5th graders. He also creates beautiful, professional portraits of his kindergarten students every year. All his projects are gifts for his students. He has created many innovative activities, including a poetry contest for the entire school to participate in. What has made Mr. Kim more deserving of this honor, is that he has continued to meet with his clubs virtually throughout this pandemic, while simultaneously continuing to teach his kindergarten class. He is a teacher that does not allow obstacles get in his way of teaching.

Mr. Kim was also the recipient of a grant that was used to purchase sound recording equipment. This allowed him to initiate the first podcasting club in the district. His fifth-grade podcasting students had begun working on a competition to enter a national podcasting event before the crisis. His students committed many hours of work into this contest, including research and practice on how to use the equipment. Their competition was interrupted because of the pandemic, but Mr. Kim continued to meet with them virtually twice a week. The students were successful in creating their very first quality podcast and were able to submit it by the original deadline proposed.

In addition, Mr. Kim also creates video projects for the entire district that share information within the schools’ communities. Last year, he was able to document a truly innovative district program that incorporated technology, music, art, and core subjects in a camp-like atmosphere. It took place during the summer and was an inclusive learning opportunity for both parents and students.  His videos created much excitement for both teachers and families to participate in this program.

Spotlight: Kristopher Petree, Kruse Elementary

Kristopher Petree is the science lab teacher at Kruse Elementary in Pasadena ISD. His peers describe him as someone who genuinely helps everyone he encounters. He builds relationships with all students at his school and goes out of his way to help teachers and administration with any technology issues they may have.  

Since the district’s focus moved over to distance learning, he took his helpfulness to a higher level, one of amazement.  Mr. Petree began by organizing Chromebooks for every teacher and instructional paraprofessional to take home to be able to maintain contact with fellow peers and students during the Stay-At-Home order.  More importantly, he did the same for students. He helped students enroll in personalized learning classrooms and secured Chromebooks so each one could continue the educational path with limited interruptions. He also organized Chromebooks for students who did not have access, but that he knew could benefit greatly by having technology support at home. 

Not only did he help with putting devices in the right hands, Mr. Petree also responded to a multitude of emails and phone calls from parents and students to setup programs and applications used for instruction. He did this for the entire Kruse student body, regardless if the devices belonged to the school district or were personal family property.  Mr. Petree continues to provide this support all hours of the day and night, whenever is most convenient for parents and students.

Mr. Petree has not stopped with his support for the school community as the pandemic continues. He has spent countless hours creating a variety of YouTube videos with step by step instructions for understanding applications and troubleshooting for staff, students, and parents at Kruse Elementary. Currently, these videos have been viewed more than 2,200 times. Furthermore, he shared these videos with the school district and other campuses. His YouTube videos have influenced other campuses to create their own campus specific videos.  These videos have also provided helpful instructions for parents to ease their access to all applications within a single sign on platform.  This allows parents to log in once to gain all information, eliminating the need for teachers to send multiple emails to parents.

We know that many people rise to the occasion in a time of need; however, Mr. Petree has contributed beyond measure to continuously provide invaluable assistance for the Kruse Elementary school community and all of Pasadena ISD throughout these unprecedented times. One might say that he came to the rescue of others.  Truly, there is no way to quantify the impact of his support. 

One of his peers said it best, “Without his knowledge, dedication, care, and commitment, our school family would have not been able to move forward with such ease and consistency. “

Spotlight: Christina Hartsfield, Texas City High School

Christina Hartsfield is a teacher at Texas City High School in Texas City ISD and teaches a career tech course based on education.  It is a course designed to inspire students to become the next wave of teachers.  Over the past few years, she has had to develop the course and its lesson plans from scratch. Each year she must personally recruit students into her program, as well as fellow teachers to become mentors. Each student not only receives instructions in class, but they also spend a class period at one of the local elementary schools as teacher assistants.  This requires the coordination of getting transportation, managing student/teacher schedules, and traveling to each class to observe the student. This has provided her students with a job experience in a classroom and the ability to see their lessons in an actual working environment.

Additionally, Ms. Hartsfield has the students involved in T.A.F.E. (Texas Association of Future Educators).  This entails Regional, State, and National competitions.  She takes students to workshops, trainings, and spends many late nights at the school assisting students with their projects.  Within her T.A.F.E. region, she has served as the Regional President and Vice President not once, but twice.  This is a volunteer organization that brings students with an interest in education together and helps fortify an education focus. Over the last two years she has also been invited out to several conferences to teach seminars. Ms. Hartsfield also encourages her students to volunteer in the community, taking them to local food banks, charities, and local shelters. The hours spent on these projects, as well as in T.A.F.E., are all voluntary. 

Ms. Hartsfield has a passion to see her students become the next great generation of teachers.  She dedicates much of her free time to seeing them succeed.  One of her peers went on to say “I have watched her develop close bonds with her students, mentor them when seeking further education, and go out of her way to see each student succeed even after high school.”

Spotlight: Quana Washington, Velasco Elementary

Ms. Washington is a fourth grade ELA teacher at Velasco Elementary in Brazosport ISD, and received the most nominations for our 2020 Appreciated Teacher awards. Throughout this pandemic, Ms. Washington has shared so much knowledge with parents. She has provided them with links to online resources through social media platforms. This has allowed parents to be able to strengthen each student’s education while being faced with this interruption. She has also shared content on various literature to improve each student’s learning while at home.

She firmly believes that every child deserves to have an equal opportunity. She is a 4th grade teacher who has made a great impact on her students’ lives. In the past, some of her students did not enjoy reading because they struggled or had learning disabilities; but through her unique teaching methods, she was able to meet each child’s need. As a result of this, her students became outstanding readers, in addition to her class becoming the second highest scoring group on the STAAR Test.

Since she began working at her campus, her peers have noticed that her students are excited and eager to learn. She is an exciting teacher with young and fresh ideas. She is always happy and enjoys being around her students.  She is teaching and her students are learning, and it is apparent in the improvement and progress her students make throughout the school year. They are always listening to her and treat her with such respect and admiration. The difference she had made is so evident in the turnaround her classes have made. She strives for excellence with every single one of her students. She takes it upon herself to ensure that each of them is taken care of and that no one is falling behind. The extra hours she puts in, even when it sometimes pulls her away from her own kids, shows her commitment to her profession.

Ms. Washington is also very involved in her community. Whether it is helping with pageants, mentoring during her free time, or driving to the homes of her students to offer extra help. Teachers of her caliber are rare and very special to their district and community.

Spotlight: Sandra Jackson, Anderson Academy

Sandra Jackson is a teacher at Anderson Academy in Aldine ISD. She is her school’s STEAM facilitator and teaches coding and robotics to over 800 students. Her dedication and passion for what she does is embodied in the atmosphere she creates for her students so that they can enjoy learning computer science.

Ms. Jackson is the founder of the Boys and Girls Who Code after-school program on her campus. Additionally, she is the Magnet and Mentors/Mentees Coordinator for her school. The requirements for each of these positions are just another indication of her dedication for her career.

Ms. Jackson has always been a firm believer of life-long learning and repeatedly seeks out opportunities to provide more resources to her students. As a result of this, she was selected for a one-year program to participate in Rice University REMSL Program that was sponsored and paid for by Conoco Philips.  She was also selected to participate in an 8-week project by Texas A&M. Her perseverance for being a leading educator has also been exemplified when she was selected as a presenter for TCCA 2019 in October and at Magnet Schools of America Mid-South.

Thank you for your dedication, Ms. Jackson!

2020 Appreciated Teacher Awards

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

That’s why Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union will recognize up to five outstanding teachers within the credit union’s field of membership, which includes all school districts in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller County, Texas. A committee of credit union employees will select from all nominations received by Monday, April 22, 2020.

Nominees should be dedicated to greatly improving the quality of education for students. The Appreciated Teacher Award recipients will be named during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8) with a $250 honorarium.

We encourage you to nominate a deserving teacher by clicking here.

Spotlight: Angel Herring, Normandy Crossing Elementary

Angel Herring is an ESL (English as a Second Language) Pre-K teacher at Normandy Crossing Elementary in Galena Park ISD. Her goal is to build confidence in all the students, provide interactive lessons, and make each day a learning adventure while students reach their fullest potential.

Ms. Herring isn’t your typical pre-k teacher, she creates hands-on lessons that her students will remember for the rest of their life. For example, she built a headphone stand for her listening center using PVC pipe. She immediately thought about how many concepts she could teach her students with such an activity. She pre-cut the PVC pipe, which she put into a math center for measuring. The students measured each piece and then put them together themselves. They learned how to use a ruler, measure objects, and the real-life purpose of measuring. Her students took great pride in their accomplishment.

Another example is how Ms. Herring celebrates Read Across America, with a special tribute to Dr. Seuss. During this week, you can find Ms. Herring dressed up in her custom-made Dr. Seuss attire to engage the students. She teaches her students about irreversible mixtures by adding green food coloring to eggs while reading “Green Eggs & Ham,” as well as making a pink ink drink while reading “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.” She also incorporates math patterns by using red and white linking cubes as a hands-on ESL activity while reading “Cat In The Hat.”

Not only does Ms. Herring strive to give her students the best possible education, but she also helps her fellow teachers do their best as well. She is seen as a mentor and master teacher. Her activities have been so successful that she has shared them on blogs, teacher organizations, and teacher clubs. Her lessons and centers have been shared over 3,000 times.

Ms. Herring has received several awards during her 13 years of teaching. She recently won scholarships from ATPE and TCEA to help her further her education.  She won ESL Teacher of the Year from her school and then GPISD.  She won Educator of the Year from the Children’s Museum of Houston last school year.  She has a Certified Digital Educator Certification from Lamar, a Campus Technology Specialist from TCEA, Google Certified Educator Level 1, Apple Certified Teacher, Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator.  In the past she was named Kroger Classroom Champ and received the Red Apple Award on live TV from KHOU and Star Furniture.