Spotlight: Jon Pillow, Pasadena High School, Pasadena ISD

Appreciated Teacher Recipient: Jon Pillow

Jon Pillow is a government teacher and the head boys’ basketball coach at Pasadena High School in Pasadena ISD. Along with being a teacher and a coach, Mr. Pillow also serves as the treasurer for the Houston Area Basketball Coaches Association board.

Mr. Pillow has made many enormous contributions to his community and his students. He organized an annual basketball tournament to honor a student of his that passed away. This tournament raises money to supply a scholarship to a deserving student each year. For the past four years, Mr. Pillow has organized a community service event known as “Hoops for Hope,” which is a wheel chair basketball game. This purpose of this game is to raise funds for the TIRR Memorial Jr. Hotwheels Basketball Team so that they may purchase much needed equipment. Mr. Pillow has also organized Basketball Bonanza Weekend, Read to Achieve, and a Buddy Basketball Program.

Along with being named a recipient of GCEFCU’s Appreciated Teacher award, Mr. Pillow is also a two time Coach of the Year, a two time winner of the Who’s Who of America’s Teachers award, and a current finalist for Pasadena High School’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

“Mr. Pillow believes that children want to be challenged and want to learn,” said Candra Ojeda. “His belief is that as a teacher, you do not lower the bar, you set it and expect kids to reach the bar through hard work, sacrifice, and a good attitude.”

Announcing the 2018 Appreciated Teacher Award Recipients

The recipients for our 2018 Appreciated Teacher Awards:

  • Jon Pillow, Pasadena High School in Pasadena ISD
  • Laura Teatsworth, Barber Middle School in Dickinson ISD
  • Benji Adams, Woodland Hills Elementary in Humble ISD
  • Jennifer Grant, Special Programs – Homebound in Pearland ISD
  • Elizabeth Bell, The Rhodes School of Performing Arts

Congratulations to our winners! Visit back as we spotlight each recipient and the wonderful work they have done for their students and community.

2018 Appreciated Teacher Awards


Woman with heart shaped face around her

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 or Waller Counties, Texas. A committee of credit union employees will select from all nominations received by Monday, April 23, 2018.

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 7-11) with an award, a $100 honorarium, and a $100 donation to their school in their name.

We encourage you to nominate a deserving teacher.


Spotlight: Lana Burns, Cypress Ranch High School, Cypress Fairbanks ISD

Lana Burns is a government teacher at Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress Fairbanks ISD. Teaching government to teenagers is not an easy task, but Ms. Burns strives to make every student a confident and competent citizen that will truly make our world a better place. She brings even the most difficult topics of government to life for each person, actively applying her knowledge of the law and how government works.

Ms. Burns has her students investigate and discuss real cases with professional guest speakers. She has had various lawyers, S.W.A.T. officers, and mock trial college students perform and speak to her class. Ms. Burns even registered to be a Harris County Voter Registrar, so that she could make sure her students turning 18 wouldn’t miss getting the chance to vote.

Ms. Burns was recognized by the State Bar of Texas as an outstanding teacher of the law. Previously, at Cy Fair High School, she was recognized as their Spotlight Teacher. Ms. Burns does not work for the accolades, she teaches because she loves what she does and because she is passionate about all areas of government and the law.

Lana Burns was nominated by a fellow educator, who said, “Ms. Burns loves teaching and shares that joy with everyone. She brings great light and joy into her classroom.”

Spotlight: Stephanie Shaw, Kaufman Elementary, Conroe ISD

Stephanie Shaw is a second grade teacher at Kaufman Elementary in Conroe ISD. She was nominated by her husband, who said she is creative and goes out of her way to make learning interesting and engaging for the students. This was evident upon meeting Mrs. Shaw, who was in the middle of cleaning up her classroom, after she had transformed it into an actual campground for her lesson titled, “Camp Learned-A-Lot.”

Mrs. Shaw created a new organization at her school this year called the WAVE club. She has a group of students that she meets with twice a month, and they participate in random acts of kindness in their school and community. She has organized many activities for the students to participate in, including making blankets for cancer patients, the animal shelter, and the local women’s shelter, making shoes for children in Uganda, and collecting items to donate to a nearby hospital. The club’s motto is, “It only takes one act of kindness to start a ripple. Little ripples make BIG waves.”

Mrs. Shaw was chosen as 2017 Teacher of the Year for Kaufman Elementary. She is one of the famous, “Science Sisters” that has won the KHOU Inspiring Curiosity award two years in a row, and has been featured on the news several times promoting STEM education. Mrs. Shaw helped organize and coordinate Conroe ISD’s Elementary Science Festival for every elementary in the district, working alongside EFTA (Education for Tomorrow Alliance) and her fellow “Science Sister.”

Some of the words her students used to describe her were awesome, nice, and funny. It was clear that Mrs. Shaw is adored by her students, a feeling that is well reciprocated.

Spotlight: Patty Koski, Highlands Elementary, Fort Bend ISD

As soon as we checked in at Highlands Elementary in Fort Bend ISD, we knew Mrs. Koski was a popular teacher. The front office staff all showed their excitement and told us how much they loved Mrs. Koski. One of them told us that Mrs. Koski was her son’s favorite teacher, and he’s now in college. Mrs. Koski is the type of teacher that has an impact on all of the students at Highlands, not just those lucky enough to be in her class.

Mrs. Koski has been awarded over $15,000 in grants for her classroom, which has provided her students with iPads, document cameras, Osmos, storytelling puppets, wireless slates, and more. Through her integration of video conferences in curriculum, her students have worked with NASA scientists, explored the nature of Alaska, observed penguins in Antarctica, and interviewed world-famous authors. Because of all of her efforts, Mrs. Koski was recognized as 2017 Highlands Elementary Campus Teacher of the Year, and a finalist for Fort Bend ISD District Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Koski not only teaches students, but she also mentors other educators as well. She serves as the grade level team leader and provides grant writing training to other teachers every year. Mrs. Koski spent her summer helping create and teach a professional development session tailored to teaching other educators technology integration and website blogging. Because of her efforts, there was an 80% increase in the effective use of blogs at her school. This has increased parent engagement in the Highlands Elementary community, and has given her students a safe place to practice digital citizenship.

Patty Koski was nominated by a fellow teacher, who described her as “the epitome of teaching excellence.” She said, “Mrs. Koski is so deserving our our appreciation in every way. She is dedicated and loving, and her reach goes far beyond her classroom.”

Spotlight: Richard Embrick, David Crockett Middle School, Fort Bend ISD

Richard Embrick is a Robotics and Engineering teacher at David Crockett Middle School in Fort Bend. Mr. Embrick has spent countless hours working with students before and after school, and spends his weekends at various robotics and coding competitions, near and far. His students describe him as extremely patient, fair, and nice.

Mr. Embrick created a robotics and engineering program at David Crockett Middle School that currently has over 300 students enrolled. The program teaches students how to design and 3D print, build and code robots, and how to work with circuits. Mr. Embrick has lead his students to compete at the University of Houston Mars Competition, Texas A&M University Competition, Future City NASA Competition, and Fluor competition. David Crockett Middle School is the only middle school in Fort Bend ISD with this type of program. Thanks to Mr. Embrick and his dedication, he is working to expand his program to the other campuses.

Richard Embrick was recently awarded the 2017 H-E-B Excellence in Education Rising Star Award, where he received $5,000 for himself and a $5,000 grant for his school. He was also named 2016 David Crockett Middle School Campus Teacher of the Year, 2016 Fort Bend ISD District Teacher of the Year, and the 2016 STEM Innovation Award. He has received over $75,000 in grant awards to help fund his program, and Mr. Embrick’s class has been featured numerous times in the Fort Bend Lifestyle and Homes magazine.

Mr. Embrick was nominated by one of his students, who said, “He gives our class many opportunities for success, but challenges us daily. Mr. Embrick is one of the best teachers ever!”

Announcing the 2017 Appreciated Teachers

The 2017 Appreciated Teacher Award Recipients

  • Stephanie Shaw- Kaufman Elementary in Conroe ISD
  • Patty Koski- Highlands Elementary School in Fort Bend ISD
  • Dr.Noemi-Celerina Dimaliwat- Alief Early College High School at Alief ISD
  • Richard Embrick- David Crockett Middle School, Fort Bend ISD
  • Lana Burns- Cypress Ranch High School, Cypress Fairbanks ISD

Visit back as we spotlight each of the recipients. Each recipient will receive an honorarium, donation to their school and an award.