2021 Appreciated Teacher Winners
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2020 Appreciated Teachers
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.
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. “
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.”
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.
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!
2019 Appreciated Teachers
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.
Juliette Broussard leads the fifth-grade science grade level team at Schneider Middle School in Pasadena ISD. Her students consistently have the highest Benchmark, Mock STAAR, and STAAR scores in the Pasadena district. She tutors children before and after school, and voluntarily gives up her conference period to work with students so they can be academically successful. If students are absent or are having difficulties at home, Ms. Broussard is known to go to the student’s residence and either tutor or speak to the parents if she is unable to reach them from the school.
Ms. Broussard is always looking for fun ways to make science come alive for her students. Recently, Ms. Broussard went all out for Schneider Middle School’s Science Academic night. She invited the Harris County Commissioner’s Office to bring live animals and they taught the kids about wildlife and outdoor education. She also had the students create hats to display the solar system, rainforest, food chains, and almost every scientific concept that fifth graders study. The students formed a parade showing off their hats, while the faculty, parents, and other students voted on their favorites. The students had a blast and over 400 parents were in attendance.
Ms. Broussard is the Schneider Middle School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year. She has also won numerous Science teaching awards and fellowships, such as the Eugene Chiappetta Chemistry and Environment Teaching Award. She attends summer training sessions with Rice University and spends countless hours implementing all she has learned to better help our students close their gaps in learning.
Her principal, Ms. Still, said it best, “She is one of the greatest teachers I have ever seena and she refuses to give up on any of our children or families.”
Miranda Emrick is a Science and STEM teacher at James Bowie Middle School in Fort Bend ISD. Before coming to her current campus, she had been the science department head since 2007 at Crockett Middle School, where she helped launch their first Robotics & Engineering course. Mrs. Embrick teaches 3 courses in Science and 3 courses in STEM. This year, her engineering students won 2nd place in Remote Control Rovers out of over 150 teams at the University of Houston Mars Rover Celebration.
In 2014, Mrs. Embrick became the campus lead in the Jason’s Project and began incorporating STEM into her science lessons. It was during this time that she noticed there was very little female participation in STEM, not just in her class, but nationally as well. She made it her mission to actively recruit female students to enter into Project Lead the Way and Robotics & Engineering courses. Through her class, Mrs. Embrick lead at all girls team to participate in a new event called Stemosphere, which involved the community of Fort Bend County and several Engineering companies, in which they won first place. Since then, Mrs. Embrick has grown the female participation in her STEM class from 10% enrollment to over 35%.
Not only does Mrs. Embrick focus on providing her students with the best education, she also assists her fellow educators to do the same. Mrs. Embrick was awarded a $5,000 grant from Fluor Engineering to develop and facilitate a workshop to train teachers how to integrate STEM into their science lessons. She now facilitates coding workshops for teachers in the district to support their summer programs.
In addition to teaching Science and STEM, Mrs. Embrick has also been actively engaged in bringing real world experiences to her students with her facilitation of the Travel Club. She has taken students to Washington DC, New York City, and California. She also took students to NASA, IFLY for lessons in flight and skydiving, and the Pleasure Pier in Galveston.
“Miranda looks at the field of education as a calling and as a life-time career, not as a job. Her passion is what fuels the desire to change the lives of students as she creates exciting rigorous lessons that both challenge and stimulate learning.”
Doug Hiser is the art teacher at Houston Gateway Academy. The qualities of Mr. Hiser that make him so special and an inspiration to his students are his immense passion for art and art history, and the dedication for his art students to getting them ready for college.
Mr. Hiser leads by example and has taught his many art students to paint alongside of him designing and painting murals for senior citizen centers, children centers, malls, and more. Ten of his students assisted with painting the giant Santa Fe Ten Feathers painting honoring the students who passed away on Santa Fe City Hall, at the request of the mayor. His students have also painted murals inside the Houston Zoo, an life-size elephant mural inside the Museum of Science, a huge gorilla inside the World Gym in Texas City, and many more.
Mr. Hiser doesn’t stop there. In addition to taking his students offsite to create art, he also uses his own funds to bring in live animals and characters for his students to practice their painting and drawing. His classroom has seen live hawks, owls, kangaroos, monkeys, and other animals, as well as characters such as Batman and Ironman.
With help from donations and fundraising, Mr. Hiser was able to take four of his art students on a safari to Kenya, Africa for a conservation art project.
“Mr. Hiser’s art program is the highlight of Houston Gateway Academy,” said the person that nominated him. “They have been awarded 231 gold medals in the last 6 years in Art.”
Jackie Thompson has been a teacher in Texas City ISD for 22 years. She is currently the director of health science and HOSA at Texas City High School, where she has mentored and encouraged countless young adults to pursue careers as nurses, doctors, and even surgeons. This teacher displays exemplary standards of knowledge, directness, kindness, compassion, and tough-love. She expects a great deal out of her students, as she does not wish for them to be mediocre in their academic endeavors.
Mrs. Thompson volunteers her personal time to help her students as well as the community. She hosts biannual HOSA blood drives and played a role in hosting disaster relief efforts during the recovery of Hurricane Harvey by setting up a medical supplies donation drive.
As the high school’s HOSA sponsor, Mrs. Thompson has taken her students to compete in state competitions. Her students are her biggest fans, as they have nominated her to the principal’s honors breakfast for the last 8 years in a row.
A former student of Mrs. Thompson’s explained it best – “I could begin to list the amazing things she has done for me, but I would run out of room and my fingers would tire from the massive amount of typing I would have to endure in order to appropriately express my gratitude for this lady for all that she has done – not only for myself, but for the rest of her students.”
2018 Appreciated Teachers
Spotlight: Elizabeth Bell, The Rhodes School for Performing Arts
Elizabeth Bell is a teacher at the Rhodes School for the Performing Arts. Ms. Bell has made countless impacts on her students and strives every day to give them the tools needed to excel in life. She is a leader among her peers, always encouraging and mentoring others.
Many years ago, Ms. Bell had a pre-k student who wore leg braces and walked with a walker due to spina bifida. One day while out on the playground, the student expressed that he wanted to ride bikes and slide down the slide like the other children. Without hesitation, Ms. Bell worked with another teacher to help her brace the young student on a tricycle. While the other teacher helped the student balance, Ms. Bell knelt down on her hands and knees in front to help guide the student’s feet, so it felt like he was riding the bike on his own. Afterwards, she helped him to slide down the slide. When the student’s mother arrived to pick him up, the student was so excited to tell her what all he had done that day. As tears streamed down his mother’s face, Ms. Bell told her, “as long as I am his teacher, I will ensure that he has the same opportunities as his peers.”
This instance and many more is what makes Ms. Bell a deserving appreciated teacher. She has worked with many children ranging from those with physical disabilities, to those with autism, and always strives to make sure they are treated equally.
“I’ve never experienced a teacher of her caliber and undying dedication to the success of all her children,” said one parent. “She deserves all the recognition in the world because she doesn’t do it to be recognized.”
Spotlight: Jennifer Grant, Special Programs – Homebound, Pearland ISD
Jennifer Grant is a homebound teacher in the Special Programs department at Pearland ISD. She services many medically fragile students, ages 3 to 18 years old, who are confined to their home. These students are unable to attend school due to their medical needs, so Ms. Grant works to bring the school environment to them.
Ms. Grant not only teaches her students, but their parents and caretakers as well, to show them how to extend the learning activities after she has left their home. Her bond with the children she teaches is often the only teacher they will see while earning their education.
This school year, Ms. Grant had a student that was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Upon finding out about his diagnosis, the student set a goal: to graduate high school. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Ms. Grant. Together they overcame many obstacles due to the student’s declining health. Ms. Grant quickly adapted the already modified assignments so that he could complete the coursework and obtain his high school diploma.
Upon completion of his coursework, and with the help of district administration, she planned a graduation ceremony for the student. On March 29, her student was able to graduate and earned his high school diploma.
Spotlight: Dr. Noemi Dimaliwat, Alief Early College High School, Alief ISD
Dr. Noemi Celerina Dimaliwat is a STEM science teacher at Alief Early College High School in Alief ISD. She started the district’s first robotics club and has lead them to compete nationally.
When Dr. Dimaliwat started Alief ISD’s first robotics club, the district did not have enough funds to fully support her initiative. However, Dr. D (as her students refer to her) was relentless and applied for funds and grants from engineering companies all over the greater Houston area to sponsor their team. At the end of their first year, the robotics team placed 2nd against 36 veteran teams in the regional competition, and qualified for the state competition.
Although they did not win their first competition, Dr. Dimaliwat “gave us hope and assured us that no matter what, we are still the schools’ winner and pioneers of the first robotics program in the district,” said former student, Bao-Khang Ngo. “Her words gave us a reason to raise our heads during that dreadful defeat day and for once, I felt inspired to become something more.”
Spotlight: Laura Teatsworth, Barber Middle School, Dickinson ISD
Laura Teatsworth has been an elementary science teacher for 30 years, and is currently the robotics coach at Barber Middle School in Dickinson ISD. Every year she organizes the school spelling bee, and has coordinated two reading programs, Read to Succeed and Waves of Pages. Ms. Teatsworth is also very involved in her community, as she was the building steward for the Houston Federation of Teachers, she serves as HOA president and formed the League City HOA Alliance, she is a Charter Review Committee member, and she also serves as the youth director for handbells at her church.
Ms. Teatsworth has spent 20+ years as an American Red Cross instructor. One year, she taught over 200 5th graders CPR. As a result, one of her students was able to save her grandmother’s life by using the instruction that she learned. The student invited Ms. Teatsworth to the ARC with her to receive her purple heart. Ms. Teatsworth also personally performed CPR on a cafeteria worker who collapsed in the school hallway, ultimately saving her life as well.
Along with teaching students herself, Ms. Teatsworth has also organized visits from many guest speakers, including NASA’s Fred Haise and Apollo 13’s Gene Kranz, as well as other CEOs, such as Compusolution X, who is contributing two advanced laptops to the two students with the highest academic performance for the year.
“She genuinely cares and our students are her focus,” said Cynthia Mason. “I am forever grateful that my children have been blessed to have her as part of their academic journey. She is selfless and deserves endless recognition.”
Spotlight: Benji Adams, Woodland Hills Elementary, Humble ISD
Benji Adams is a teacher at Woodland Hills Elementary in Humble ISD. She is not only a teacher, but a cheerleader for her students as well. When her students are struggling, she doesn’t hesitate to come in early before school for tutoring. When she knew that one her students’ confidence was shrinking, Ms. Adams showed up to her soccer game to cheer her on.
Kim Calderon, a parent of three Woodland Hills students, was lucky enough to have two of her children have Ms. Adams as their teacher. Mrs. Calderon recalled how one of her daughters was speech delayed, which caused her to struggle in all areas of school. So much so, that they thought she may have to repeat a grade. With the help of Ms. Adams, her daughter was able to catch up and gain the confidence she needed to finish.
“She celebrated her victories. She pushed through with her on her struggles. She made sure that my daughter felt like she mattered when she was losing all self-confidence,” said Mrs. Calderon.
Just when she thought the school year was over and that she would have to say good-bye to her new favorite teacher, they found out their youngest daughter would have Ms. Adams as her teacher, too. “My husband and I will never be able to repay her for the love she has shown my children,” said Mrs. Calderon. “She will forever be etched in our hearts as the best teacher we have ever known!”
Spotlight: Jon Pillow, Pasadena High School, Pasadena ISD
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.”
2017 Appreciated Teachers
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!”
2016 Appreciated Teachers
Spotlight: Yesenia Stadler, Rizzuto Elementary, La Porte ISD
Yesenia Stadler is a first grade Spanish teacher at Rizzuto Elementary in La Porte. She takes the time to recognize every single student and their individual needs to enhance their learning experience. She tutors after school, gives special one-on-one instruction, and celebrates every holiday (costumes included) to not only create awareness, but also to encourage class participation.
Mrs. Stadler was chosen as Teacher of the Year for Rizzuto Elementary in 2015, and was then awarded the KHOU Red Apple award in January 2016. When she received the KHOU Red Apple Award, the television crew surprised her and her students in class. When the students realized that Mrs. Stadler was getting an award, they all swarmed around her in a great big hug. It is easy to see she is very loved by her “little ones,” as she calls them.
Mrs. Stadler is all about getting the children involved and trying to peek their interest. She celebrates all holidays, including Dr. Seuss week, which is where they celebrate his birthday all week long. The kids are served green eggs and ham and get to participate in interactive activities.
Mr. Gregory Stadler summed it up by saying she is “quite incredible” and “most deserving” of this award.
Spotlight: Pamela Bogusz, League City Intermediate School, Clear Creek ISD
Pamela Bogusz has been pouring her heart and soul into helping her students for over thirty years. She’s retiring from League City Intermediate where she has impacted countless students over the years with her compassion and teaching style. Not many students or parents of students get the full appreciation for what teachers do such as the long hours spent outside of the classroom preparing, grading, making sure that students will have their academic and emotional needs met.
Mrs. Bogusz was nominated by her daughter who has seen the impact her mother has had first hand. She wrote, ” My mom is amazing. If you meet her, you know she is someone special within 5 minutes of talking to her. The biggest trait I realize about her as a teacher that makes her great is patience. I always was struck by the patience my mother had with her students. “
Like all great teachers, Mrs. Bogusz cares about her students, not only their comprehension of the classroom lessons but their overall emotional well being. For example, Mrs. Bogusz bought birthday presents for a student dealing with a difficult home life and anonymously put the gifts in the student’s locker so that they would have a happy birthday. That’s what teachers do. They give and do so willingly without needing recognition.
We thank you Mrs. Bogusz for your years of dedication to your students.
Spotlight: Albert Perez, Creekside Intermediate (Clear Creek ISD)
Mr. Perez is a sixth grade Social Studies teacher at Creekside Intermediate whose passion is broadening his students’ horizons and showing them there is a big world with big possibilities awaiting them. He is very energetic with his students and makes learning about the world fun. We got to see firsthand how much his students love him. We presented his award right after the Clear Creek Education Foundation awarded Mr. Perez with a grant for $3,000. His students were in the hall literally chanting his name.
Mr. Perez has created many activities for his students to learn about the world around them. He has established a United Nations with all of his Omega students, and they have a trial court at the University of Houston Clear Lake every year. He also puts on a County Extravaganza for his students and their parents. Students set up a booth for each country with artifacts, information, culinary dishes, and costumes from that specific country.
In addition to his classroom work, Mr. Perez has also established an athletic club for sixth graders called The Cobra Chain Cred. This club helps with the chains during football games and also lends themselves to other athletic groups, including basketball, volleyball, and track. He is an asset to his campus and judging by the appreciation his students show, he has been an asset to his community during his twenty plus years of teaching.
Spotlight: Caitlin White, Bobby Shaw Middle School (Pasadena, ISD)
Mrs. White’s vision for all of her students is something very special. She exceeds in providing a unique opportunity to all of her students as an Orchestra teacher at Bobby Shaw Middle School in Pasadena, TX. Throughout the years, she has built and maintained one of the largest middle school programs in the district while continuing to increase participation.
Mrs. White creates opportunities for her students throughout the year to perform not only for the school, but for elementary schools in the district, public performances at Hermann Park as well as working with the members of the Houston Symphony. Whether her students go on to study music later in life has never been the point for Mrs. White, but rather to have provided an opportunity for them to participate in something that creates life-long memories and experiences.
Because she believes that all students should have access to music and be able to participate, Mrs. White went through the vigorous process of applying for and receiving the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Grant in 2014. This increased the number of orchestra instruments available for the students to use in the program. For Mrs. White, if a student has the desire to participate, then there should be a way for them to do so. In addition to school owned instruments, the grant was another avenue to increase the opportunities for the Shaw students who may not have had access to an instrument.
A lot of times, there is a lot of pressure put on students of all ages for testing, competitions, and other various parts of school day life. Mrs. White has created an environment to expose and include students in orchestra in a way that excites them, makes them want to come back the following year, and continue when they move through junior high.
Spotlight: Ursula Bryant, Lonnie B. Keller Middle School (Pasadena ISD)
Ursula Bryant could not stop teaching even if she tried. She is simultaneously a mother, taskmaster, confidante, defender and teacher for each of her students in the way each one of them needs it most. She is currently an English Language Arts teacher at Lonnie B. Keller Middle School. It is said that you can hear her coming before you ever see her, but what you hear are quality lessons filled with equal parts content, sass, and love. She absolutely expects the best from each of her students while knowing the best from each student may not look the same.
Knowing that literacy holds the keys to the future, Mrs. U. Bryant ensures her students are not without books. Like all ELAR teachers, she takes them to the library. But that is just the beginning – she searches for programs and grants that will provide relevant, page-turning, poignant novels for her students. Even more, she pours her own money in the form of paperbacks straight into their backpacks. The only thing she asks in return is that they read.
Her co-worker, Ms. Beran, said that “Octavia Spencer would play her in the movie version of this nomination.”
Spotlight: Stephanie Nelson, Manvel High School (Alvin ISD)
Stephanie Nelson is the type of teacher that knows not all learning takes place in the classroom and that to truly engage students there has to be a real world connection with her lessons. As a Health Science teacher at Manvel HS in Alvin ISD, she builds genuine relationships with students while growing a thriving health science program where students gain relevant skills for entering the medical profession. At the same time she sponsors HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America). This is one of the largest most active student organizations on campus. Her students compete nationally in health occupation skills. She is also the career and technology department head. Stephanie has built a strong department where she continually supports teachers in their efforts to create classrooms with strong connections to health science careers. In her role as department leader, Stephanie has built strong community partnerships for our health science students to intern and experience health science occupations first hand.
This year Stephanie put on the “Shattered Dreams” program which highlights the dangers of distracted driving including texting and drinking while driving. The program shows students how their peers lose their lives engaging in these dangerous behaviors. This powerful program starts with parents writing their children’s obituaries. The program culminates with a mock car crash where 2 student ‘die’, followed by a mock memorial service. Students participating visit a local hospital where they experience an active ER and spend time with health professionals learning more about the consequences of engaging in dangerous behaviors. Stephanie has organized and put on this program for Manvel HS seamlessly and created and experience that will have a lasting impact on students.
Her principal Mrs. Liptack summed it up with,
2015 Appreciated Teachers
Spotlight: Chuck Bezdek, San Jacinto Elementary (Deer Park ISD)
There is only one way to describe Chuck Bezdek – living legend. We were fortunate enough to get to present his Appreciated Teacher Award at his official retirement celebration at San Jacinto Elementary where he has been instilling students with confidence and a life-long love of health & fitness for 25 years. Since announcing Coach Bezdek as one of our award recipients we’ve had so many of our current and former employees reach out to us to tell us how amazing their experience with Coach Bezdek was when he taught them. Prior to his time at SJE, he spent 15 years at Mae Smythe Elementary in Pasadena ISD where he was one of the first teachers with a Physical Education degree to be hired to help start the district’s physical education programs.
Chuck’s passion for working with elementary students led him to pass on job offers in athletics at the high school level. Now there are literally thousands of former students who are so glad that he did. He has been their mentor, role model and fan. As they’ve grown up, they remember Coach Bezdek and the things he taught them. Things that you don’t always learn in a classroom but are so important to growing as a person.
Thank you Coach Bezdek for your 40 years of service.
Spotlight: Christine Hawthorne, Barber Middle School (Dickinson ISD)
Christine Hawthorne genuinely cares about education and has a unique understanding of how to engage students to maximize their learning. Mrs. Hawthorne’s influence extends well beyond her classroom. She willingly accepts student teachers into her classroom because she believes in the importance of mentoring future teachers. Knowing full well that learning can take place anywhere, she has garnered support from major corporations so that students can take field trips to learn about science in the real world.
In the classroom Mrs. Hawthorne finds ways to engage students through hands on science lessons. Her hope is that by making science relevant and fun for students, they will be inspired to consider pursue science fields in high school and beyond.
Christine is continually looking for ways to motivate and reach her students. She helped organize a district wide kindergarten & sixth grade collaborative learning experience. The sixth graders taught the kindergarten students science lessons which benefited both groups and created a whole new level of student engagement. She does all of this because she loves teaching and truly believes in the power of public education.
Spotlight: Denise Hahn, Robert Turner Career College and High School (Pearland ISD)
Denise Hahn received several nominations, including a few from students and one from a parent. They all have a common theme: Denise Hahn is changing students’ lives through her work at Turner High School. The courses she teaches in Audio Video Production is giving students real world skills that make them work force ready when they graduate. But she gives the students so much more than those skills, she gives them the confidence they will need to navigate adulthood. One student wrote, “Growing up, I was always told by many people that I would never amount to anything in life, but when Mrs. Hahn became my teacher she taught me to turn their words into fuel to power my success. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.” There are no more powerful words than that to describe a life changing, great teacher.
Mrs. Hahn helps the students discover their passion and then she nurtures it. She goes to great lengths to develop her students and always has time for them including scheduling Saturday classes. A group of her students is taking Final Cut certification which could lead to jobs straight out of high school in radio, television or the film industry. In order to pay for the certifications, Mrs. Hahn secured scholarship funding for the students.
All of her students agree that Mrs. Hahn, through her belief in her students, pushes them way beyond the limits of what they thought their capabilities were. She’s not just giving them skills they can use, rather she is helping them grow as people. Each nomination talks about how lucky they are to have met Mrs. Hahn. She is truly an appreciated teacher.
Spotlight: Geema Moore, Pasadena Memorial High School
Each year Geema Moore spends countless hours working with the students at Pasadena Memorial High School to produce the school’s musical. It is a true labor of love for Mrs. Moore who isn’t the school’s drama or choir teacher. She is part of the CTE department at PMHS and teaches Money Matters, Accounting, and Business Law. It is a yearly ritual which consumes her free time from November to January and it is all hands on deck at the Moore household as the family gets involved too.
A parent commented that even though her son only had a small role in the musical, Mrs. Moore made him feel like he was in a lead role through her praise and encouragement. It shows that teaching is about far more than giving students some knowledge about a subject, but rather about giving students the confidence to do things they didn’t think they had in them.
Mrs. Moore understands that teaching extends beyond the classroom. She runs the trading post at PMHS where she mentors students in areas such as accounting and retail. It is another way to prepare students for life after school. Students can expect to see a great deal of Mrs. Moore as she attends extracurricular activities to cheer on students and let them know that no matter what the circumstances, the students are a part of the Maverick community.
Spotlight: Heather Brown, Alvin Elementary
When we presented Heather Brown with her honorarium, she told a packed gym at Alvin Elementary that the money would be used to buy science supplies to set up a science lab at a school for orphaned girls in Haiti. She’s scheduled to go right after school lets out for the Summer to expose those students to the wonderful world of science. It is a skill she has mastered over the years according to her principal. She added, “Her passion for the curriculum makes her classes engaging for her students. When you enter her room you see students working in groups and digging into the fun and messy sides of science.”
Heather is a leader on her campus and is often sought out for advice and help by her peers. Like so many teachers, she gives freely of her time. You won’t find a family academic night at Alvin Elementary without Mrs. Brown helping to make sure the event is a great success.
In a time of great change in education and the way students learn, Mrs. Brown has remained mindful that each individual child learns in their own way. She is described as a masterful teacher when it comes to differentiating the curriculum to fit each student’s learning style. Taking it even further, Heather has embraced instructional technology and used it to enhance the individualized learning that takes place in her classroom. Parents continually request that their child be placed in Mrs. Brown’s class because she ignites the love of science in her students and we know she’ll do the same on her upcoming trip to Haiti.
Spotlight: James Kingsmill, Galena Park High School
Spouses of teachers are uniquely qualified when it comes to letting others know how outstanding their spouse is at their craft. In the case of James Kingsmill, his wife is doubly qualified since she is also an educator.
James Kingsmill’s passion is teaching speech and debate and transferring that passion to his students. In 2011 he took over a debate program which was virtually nonexistent and over the years has nurtured it into a strong, award winning program. Like so many teachers, he did it through selfless giving of his time and money. He spent countless hours writing grants and hosting debate tournaments in order to raise funds for his students and program. He pays for each student’s membership into the National Forensic League and the payoff has been tremendous. This year, ten seniors will graduate with honor cords from the National Forensic League Honor Society.
Building a successful program requires a great deal of time and energy. It is easy to get distracted by personal circumstances such as a personal battle with epilepsy. James Kingsmill, however, would not allow that to derail his efforts to build a successful program at his school for his students. He, like so many teachers, always puts his students first and it shows through his actions and their success.
2014 Appreciated Teachers
Appreciated Teacher: Meredith Boeneman, Santa Fe High School
Meredith Boeneman is the kind of teacher who cares about students and their experience in high school. She started the Prom Angels to make sure that any SFHS student who needed help with a dress and shoes for prom could receive them through the program. Meredith understands how the major events in high school can impact students and works to make sure they all have the best experience possible by volunteering as the senior class sponsor.
She is the type of teacher who is continually busy helping to organize and make sure things get done. Boeneman was responsible for putting together the district’s Veterans Day ceremony which by all accounts was the highest attended event of its kind. A big part of the high school experience is learning about giving back to your community.
Students respond to her leadership and teaching style which makes them look forward to working with her on projects such as the stock market game in which the team ranked 2nd out of 280 teams. Meredith is setting an outstanding example for her young adult students to follow. The students at Santa Fe High School truly appreciate Meredith Boeneman and all that she has done for them and her impact will be felt for years to come.
Megan Elliott was only ever going to be one thing when she grew up, a teacher. She comes from a family of teachers and by fourth grade was helping tutor students in her mother’s classroom. Megan grew up in the classroom and spent countless hours helping her mother with everything in the classroom from bulletin boards to manipulatives for the students. Her mother’s biggest fear was that Megan would be burned out and not consider joining the noble teaching profession.
There was no chance of that happening. Megan started as a substitute teacher before becoming a kindergarten teacher at Longfellow Elementary. Her principal and coworkers were on hand to share their praise for this energetic, passionate teacher and all agreed her attitude is infectious. Megan is always willing to give her time to her students and has even been known to attend student birthday parties and sporting events.
Like so many teachers, Ms. Elliott spends a great deal of her own money to make sure her students get the best possible start to their education career. In fact, her kindergarten class was so excited because they knew the honorarium she received was helping to fund their kindergarten graduation. Megan’s first thought is always her students and for that reason, her students and coworkers truly appreciate her. Congratulations Megan, we wish you the best in your teaching career for years to come!
Appreciated Teacher: Christy Freshour, Fairmont Elementary, Deer Park ISD
Some people were simply born to teach, you get that impression after meeting Christy Freshour from Fairmont Elementary in Deer Park ISD. When we arrived in her classroom to present her with a 2014 appreciated teacher award we were greeted by a classroom of smiles, 5th graders that knew they had a special teacher in their midst.
Christy was nominated by the parents of one of her students, they remarked on her tireless commitment to improving their child’s education, and her wholehearted approach to teaching. She made time to give them weekly updates on their child’s progress and even directed them to find teaching aids that they could use themselves to help instruct their child at home as well.
When we asked Christy to tell us about her teaching style she had this to say “I teach from the heart, every child is different, and requires a different approach to truly make an impact. I try to reach out to them individually. Teaching is not a one size fits all type of thing”. Indeed The students at Fairmont Elementary and the parents of those students are lucky to have such a passionate and committed teacher.
Appreciated Teacher: Amy Bolting, Alvin Elementary
Great teachers never stop being students. They are lifelong learners who always seek out opportunities to grow professionally. Amy Bolting is that type of teacher. She has spent countless hours learning to integrate technology into the classroom to give every student including those struggling the best possible chance at success. She’s flipped her classroom and made those lessons available to her students and their parents so that lessons can be reinforced at home.
Amy doesn’t keep what she learns inside her classroom. She eagerly shares it with her coworkers at Alvin Elementary who have benefited from Amy’s dedication in the form of iPads which she was able to obtain for the entire school. Her collaboration with her colleagues has led to a newly implemented program for interventions in and after school.
Her coworkers will tell you that Amy makes them all better teachers. A true campus leader who has learned that setting high expectations pays off because all those around will elevate their performance.
Appreciated Teacher: Kevin Poe, Lomax Junior High, La Porte ISD
Mr. Kevin Poe understands the power of education and teachers. Kevin grew up in Mississippi and credits his childhood teachers with inspiring him to become an educator who is loved by the students, parents and fellow teachers at Lomax Junior High. Mr. Poe has time and a smile for everyone which has turned the LXJ Band into one of the most popular student activities on campus.
Danette Tilley, principal of Lomax Jr. High, told us she is the president of the Kevin Poe fan club. The club’s membership must be full of students and his fellow teachers who named Kevin as this year’s Lomax Junior High Teacher of the Year. He genuinely loves his job, school and the students. He can be found engaging with the students in the cafeteria during lunches instead of taking that time for himself.
Mr. Poe’s calming influence extends to the entire campus and he’s willingly taken on the reaching out to the students that others might consider a challenge. He relishes that opportunity because he knows that education represents the best chance to make a better life for yourself and family.
Appreciated Teacher: Mandy Benedix, Rogers Middle School, Pearland ISD
Teachers touch countless lives during their tenure in their chosen profession. Every now and then a teacher comes along whose impact is magnified beyond the walls of their own classroom or school. That teacher is Pearland ISD Rogers Middle School’s Mandy Benedix. Her True Grit program has become a standard throughout the district as a way to help students learn skills to become more successful and create a positive school culture.
Benedix states, “Grit is the ability to passionately pursue a goal for an extended period of time despite adversity, failure, or a loss of interest. It is resiliency, and research shows over and over that it is a necessary part of becoming successful.” The program was featured on Fox 26 as part of a segment about Rogers Middle School and the school’s principal Dana Miles recognized the difference it has made at the Pearland ISD’s third largest school.
The program’s success isn’t taken for granted by her peers and it was a fellow teacher who nominated Benedix. Peer recognition can often be the most rewarding since it validates the work done on a professional level. Every student & teacher on her campus can validate the importance of the work Benedix has done for their campus and the entire Pearland community.
2013 Appreciated Teachers
Stephen Steinbauer, Stewart Elementary
Stephen Steinbauer loves math. He teaches 6th grade math at Stewart Elementary in Hitchcock ISD. He is so passionate about math that he teaches it on his own time in after school tutoring. If you were to attend a tutoring session, you would find more than just 6th grade students getting extra help with their math. You might see former students coming back for help with their current math classes, parents of students who want learn more to help their own child, or even adults asking for help with college math. Yes, Mr. Steinbauer loves math.
His principal nominated him because she’s seen all of his own time he’s so willingly put in. When he’s not teaching or tutoring math, he runs an after school Glee club. When his club performs, Stephen can be seen looking on like a proud parent.
He is described as role model for the students and teachers around him. When we presented him with the award, we could certainly see why. He thanked us for the honor but had to hurry back to class because he had students waiting to learn math.
Janet Wohlgemuth, MacArthur Elementary
A fellow teacher at MacArthur Elementary commented about Janet Wohlgemuth, “I appreciate the fact that no matter what kind of day she may be having, her priority is always the students she teaches.” When it came time to schedule her chemotherapy treatments, Janet chose Fridays so that she would be able to be at school after recovering on weekends. The students are her top priority as she put their needs ahead of her own.
Janet didn’t become a teacher, rather it was her calling. She is a teacher by nature. One of the credit union’s team members making the presentation got to catch up with her childhood girl scout leader. Even when she’s not in the classroom, Janet is a teacher.
Her principal echoed her appreciation saying, “Janet works with our struggling learners. Her dedication and consistency helps these students to achieve success just like any other student. She cares deeply and pushes for excellence.” Janet’s commitment to her students leads to their success. As we left the classroom, we couldn’t help but comment on how attentive and well behaved the class was. Janet beamed like a proud parent and gave all the credit to her students and fellow teachers.
Debra Forehand, Crockett Elementary
Debra Forehand got into teaching later in life, but according to her principal and counselor at Crockett Elementary she was born to teach. Debra will tell you the same thing and that the last three years have been among the happiest, most fulfilling of her life.
Debra has learned that her students will live up to expectations so she sets them very high. According to her counselor, those expectations are exceeded by her students in large part because Debra is continually looking for innovative ways to reach her students. The week prior to presenting her with this award, she was visited by the Goose Creek CISD Education Foundation to award her with a grant to implement innovative ideas into her classroom.
Like many teachers, Debra is a thoughtful person and thinks of others. One of Debra’s students has a parent who is deaf. Debra taught her class to sign a song so that the parent would be included in the class performance.
Brenda Sauser, Hall Elementary
If you step into Brenda Sauser’s second grade classroom at Hall Elementary, you quickly realize that Brenda is a creative teacher who understands that teaching children is both science and art. One of her long time fellow second grade teachers, Teresa Hays said of Brenda, “I am always amazed at the artistic creativity Brenda brings out of her students. She is able to find the special and unique talents of each child in her classroom. I have been very blessed to have taught next to her for over twenty years.”
Great teachers build strong relationships with students and treat them as individuals. In over 20 years at Hall, Brenda has built lasting relationships. Ask any of her own children and they each have stories of former students telling them how Mrs. Sauser was their favorite teacher. One reason is that she takes the time to get to know the children and help them explore their love of learning.
Brenda’s fellow teachers admire her and the way she interacts with students. They use words like patience and kindness to describe her. Stephanie King, Hall Principal, sums it up nicely, “Brenda is such a positive influence on her students, each and every day, year after year. She continues to bring out the best in all of her children and teach them with love and kindness.”
Anthony Tran, Clear Falls High School
When we left Mr. Tran’s classroom in Clear Falls High School, we made it about 100 feet before his class erupted into wild cheers again. We weren’t surprised considering all he does for his students. His students truly appreciate his passion for math and his desire for them to succeed. Instead of doing the two mandatory tutorials each week, Mr. Tran can be found tutoring up to six days a week including Saturdays.
One of Mr. Tran’s greatest qualities is what we at the credit union call “catching them doing it right.” He focuses celebrating student successes. He’s been known to call parents not to discuss problems but rather share those student successes.
Mr. Tran was nominated by a parent whose two students have benefited from Mr. Tran’s time and passion. That parent feels that Mr. Tran’s passion and enthusiasm was directly responsible for her student’s success. He is one of those teachers that drives students to succeed because they see his dedication. Mr Tran is truly an appreciated teacher and his students may still be cheering.
Amalia “Molly” Savala, Meador Elementary
When you first meet Molly, you quickly realize that she has a smile to share with everyone. Her fourth grade bilingual students at Meador Elementary are the daily beneficiaries of Molly’s welcoming smile. But that smile touches so many more in the Meador community through the Larry’s Gifts foundation she and her husband started to honor their murdered son. Through the foundation, Molly raises funds to make sure that less fortunate PISD students receive Christmas gifts.
Molly came to the classroom later in life and once her children were grown went on to obtain her Master’s degree. She uses the counseling skills learned through her Master’s degree to help transition her students from Spanish to English with great success. Molly exemplifies the outstanding teachers who are life long learners.
The students and faculty of Meador Elementary both share in their appreciation for Molly. One coworker commented that along with her smile, Molly always has a kind word for everyone. She truly cares about people including her students, fellow teachers and her school community in return, she is a truly appreciated teacher.
2012 Appreciated Teachers
He devotes many out of school hours to the students not only at his school, but at Palmer Elementary. It obvious when you see him engaging with the children that he really cares about them. He is fully invested in the schools and his students.
Mr. Alba is an outstanding teacher and male role model to all the students he has taught. He is very active in his student’s activities such as swim meets, volleyball games, football games, etc. He is always there to support his students and goes above and beyond that. He is also very involved in many other groups such as environmental, recycling, and green day. He takes so much pride in rebuilding and giving to the community. His passion for educating our children, our future reflects with his actions. He is a true asset to the PISD.
As a principal, I’ve seen all kinds of teachers in my 31 years, but I’ve seen few as wonderful as Peggy Arnold. Peggy has a way of loving the students, while at the same time expecting great things from them despite their background. Peggy had a student last year, a little girl who was living with an older couple due to her removal from her birth mom due to bad circumstances. Peggy took the student with the idea that she would love her but not make excuses for her. She communicated with the older couple often, helped them help the child, and as a result she excelled both academically and emotionally. This year resulted in the student’s little brother becoming part of the picture. Mrs. Arnold volunteered to take him and did the same as she had done for his sister. She pushed him while loving him, and taught him ‘no excuses because you can do this.’ In November, the children lost her ‘Ma’ who was raising them to a year long battle with cancer. Mrs. Arnold’s concern, love, and compassion came through for both students. Their success in many ways can be directly attributed to Peggy Arnold – her heart, her soul, her love and discipline, her expectations!
Marina teaches first grade at our school. She is one of the most patient, dedicated teachers I have worked with during my 20+ years as an educator. This year one of our first grade teachers was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Marina led her team in a campaign to support the sick teacher and her family. She slept in the hospital for over a week, so the teacher would not be alone. So far, through different fundraisers, our school and community have raised over $20,000.00 for the cause. Marina is always the first one to step forward with an offer to help her colleagues and she is also blessed with an abundance of patience. Many years she has been given the most challenging first grade class because she approaches every day with optimism and a super work ethic. These are just a few of the reasons I appreciate Marina.
Her principal added, “One of the most special things about her is that she was my secretary prior to becoming a teacher. She helped me open Gilmore 7 years ago, ordering every stick of furniture and every instructional resource. I sat her down one day and encouraged her to finish her teaching degree that she had started many years ago. Long story short…she did it and is one of the best teacher leaders on our campus.”
It is easy to see how appreciated he is when parents of former students, as well as current, make that extra effort to come up and give their praise of Mr. Mac’s efforts with their children. He has a knack for catching the students off guard and really making their learning fun. As a result they come in everyday just waiting to see what he will do next! He has received many letters from students and parents thanking him for his dedication to their well being. One example; a young boy who had no male role model in his home who came into Mr. Mac’s classroom as a bully and one who didn’t seem to care about school. By the end of the year, he was a changed boy. He was respectful to himself, the other students as well as his mother and teachers. He had also improved his grades and really seemed to enjoy coming to school every day. I truly believe the change in this young man was a direct result of care and respect Chris McGlothlin gives each student he encounters. There is no other way to describe Mr. Mac than to say he is a wonderful teacher who cares deeply for the well being of his students not only pertaining to the knowledge they gain from textbooks, but also life lessons that these young people can use to succeed in the world.
I have worked with Debbie for more than 30 years. She is so involved with her students she has little time for herself. She teaches 9th grade Pre-AP Biology. Mrs. McNabb currently has a Sr. Homeroom. She sponsors the South Houston Trash Rats – a paper recycling club. She takes students to Beach Clean-ups when they are offered. She stays late almost every afternoon to tutor her students and to plan and prepare her lessons for her classes.
Every summer, Debbie, with a teacher friend from Dobie, takes a group of students, parents, and other teacher to Costa Rica to experience the wonders of the tropical forest and to “experience” biology.
Debbie is also very active in her church preparing for a mission trip to Central America this summer. Debbie is truly an OUTSTANDING teacher. She has been honored as a special teacher at several “Shining Star” banquets by students whose lives have been impacted by her care and attention. You won’t go wrong if you honor this lady.