Spotlight: Ashley Henderson, Edward “E. F.” Green Junior

Ms. Henderson – Goose Creek CISD

I live by the quote that “education is not preparation for life…. but education is life itself.” This quote means so much to me because it’s something that I truly live and breathe. I’m entering my 5th year of teaching 6th grade ELA where we hold it down. I value the importance of teaching my students how to be rich; not rich when it comes to monetary value but rich in culture and education. I value building genuine relationships with my students and I make tis my number one priority of a daily basis. I helped put on E. F. Green’s 1st annual Black History Show. I held auditions, after school rehearsals, and put on 3 separate shows. I’ve held a writing workshop that was called “The Writing University” for my students. They had the chance to learn the writing process while pretending to attend a real university. They decorated their dorms (desk), and they even had a graduation ceremony afterwards where they were able to take a picture with a gown and tassel. I’ve also put on a ER themed workshop where students dressed as surgeons in order to fix some broken ECR’s and SCR’s in preparation for STAAR. I even made several raps for my students to encourage them throughout the year; in which they enjoy so much. One of the raps being called Super STAARS. I’ve dedicated my life to being the best educator that I can be and I hope it shows through the love I give in this field.

Spotlight: Kristie Sparks, Carroll Elementary

Ms. Sparks – Sheldon ISD

In 2004 I started as a Special Education Teacher’s Aide for the Houston Independent School District, where I found my calling and fell in love with teaching. I completed my education degree while working full time at Herrera Elementary. In May of 2008 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education EC-4th grade and taught as a first-grade teacher at Coop Elementary. The next school year I was asked with my prior experience if I wanted to work in the Special Education Life Skills classroom, and I accepted the position and never looked back! I became certified in 2010 as a Special Education Pk-12 Teacher, but I have only taught at the elementary level. I worked for Houston I.S.D. for a total of 16 wonderful years. I worked at four terrific elementary schools, Herrera Elementary, Coop Elementary, Poe Elementary and Northline Elementary. As a child I attended Northline Elementary, so it meant so much to me get to teach at my favorite school where I was once a student. I loved giving back to my community and seeing some of my old classmates from the neighborhood whose children were now attending the school. I have taught for the last three years for the Sheldon Independent School District at Carroll Elementary in the Special Education Life Skills/Autism classroom. My second year at Carroll Elementary I won a grant to create a STEM center in my classroom. With the grant money I was able to buy robots and programming tools for my students, since we are a STEM school. They were always discussing the robots and programming they were learning from our STEM teacher, so I felt we should have it available for them to learn and discover in more depth in our class. I have a total of 19 years of teaching but honestly it feels like I am just getting started. I can’t wait to see what more teaching has in place for me in the coming months and years. I love my students, staff and principal and with their support I am always looking for ways to make my classroom a better learning environment. The grants I obtain allow me to create a more calming and comfortable sensory stimulating classroom for my students with Autism, I want to have a technology center with new devices and computers to use for curriculum apps and leisure time, and outside equipment for my students who are wheelchair bound. My current goal is to go back to school and earn more of an administrative role, so that I can be an advocate for the Special Education population. As I mentioned earlier, I found my calling and I absolutely love it and I can’t wait for my next school year!

Spotlight: Adriana Sanchez Cantu, Bel Sanchez Elementary

Mrs. Sanchez-Cantu, Alvin ISD

Mrs. Sanchez has been an educator at Alvin ISD for almost 10 years and is the Gifted & Talented Specialist at Sanchez Elementary. She is always willing to go the extra mile to help students, parents, the community, and the campus. She was recognized by the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented as the 2022 Educator of the Year. Mrs. Sanchez runs after school clubs such as Destination Imagination, VEX Robotics, Chess, Math Pentathlon, and Science Club. Her team of 5th graders participated in an international competition called Mars Colony Challenge and won 1st place. She coordinates the campus UIL and is the Yearbook sponsor. Mrs. Sanchez applied and received a grant to bring PLTW Launch to the campus to build potential in the younger students and engage them in STEM. She received grants to purchase drones, 3D pens, software to create and code holograms, a hydroponics classroom kit, and funds to purchase architectural houses for 5th grade. She secured a sponsorship for a group of students to participate in an international competition called Space Camp where students practiced with simulation software and received daily feedback from NASA experts.

Mrs. Sanchez volunteers on Saturdays for student competitions. She volunteered as a judge at VEX Worlds and at TSA Photography competitions. She continues to reach out to experts and is always looking for opportunities to continue learning. She holds a national STEM certification from NISE and is part of the REMSL cohort from Rice University that focuses on STEM practices in the classroom. She holds an MBA and a master’s in education. Mrs. Sanchez speaks Spanish, English, French, and Italian and is completely dedicated to ensuring students are supported and engaged in learning opportunities that take them above and beyond. She is a great example of a lifelong learner, kind individual, professional, student advocate, and teacher.

Spotlight – Aaron Boudreaux, Bailey Middle School

Mr. Boudreaux – Spring ISD

I feel so honored to even be considered. My time in education has not been for awards, because the reward is getting to work with these children on a daily basis. I grew up in south Houston, relocating to Spring just for work; I am so grateful for the knowledge and wisdom I received in school as well as in surrounding communities. I feel it is now my responsibility to give back and continue in the footsteps of those that blazed before me. I followed both my mother and father into this field as educators and I enjoy every moment that comes with impacting a young person’s life.

My time at Bailey Middle School has been amazing. I am so thankful for the years spent molding lives and being able to see those young adults go on to be successful in High School. Although the process is long and sometimes difficult, it’s those trials we are able to overcome which give us our greatest sense of achievement. My time spent as the department chair on campus allowed me to step into a leadership role and work with other teachers to sharpen their craft. Our time was cut short due to the pandemic, but the ability to provide the virtual assistance when needed gave me the opportunity to work on how I am able to adjust to multiple moving pieces and produce desirable outcomes.

With the creation of Mentoring Mighty Minds, a local non-profit organization designed to work with young African American males during the adolescence stage of life, Aaron partners with community leaders throughout the city of Houston. Mentoring Mighty Minds provides opportunities for instructional, emotional, physical, and mental growth to a population of young men often forgotten about or not addressed until there is an issue with one of the above-mentioned factors. Aaron uses his platform in the classroom to build healthy relationships with students and their families. Having a supportive figure in the classroom goes a long way in teaching a child how to learn to love to learn! For the past 13 years, Aaron has decided to shine a light on situations that plague our community and will continue to uplift those that are in the greatest need for a positive source of influence.

Gulf Coast Educators FCU’s 2023 Appreciated Teacher of the Year!

Ms. Ashley Miller – Pasadena ISD

For our 2023 Appreciated Teacher Awards, we received hundreds of nominations from over 45 different school districts across the state of Texas. Among all the nominations Mrs. Perry made it to the top five, ultimately winning her the title of GCEFCU’s Appreciated Teacher of the Year, with a total of 898 votes!

I started my teaching career during my high school years back in Ohio, where I grew up.
My university, Bowling Green State University, partnered with Aline ISD to bring student teachers down to the Houston area. When I joined this program, I knew I wanted to help change the lives of students in the Greater Houston area. Once I graduated, I interviewed for a Special Education position with Pasadena ISD and fell in love with the students of this district. This is currently my fifth-year teaching Elementary Special Education students for Pasadena ISD in grades Pre-K through fourth grade. During this school year, I had to step into multiple teacher roles and help students from all of the different Special Education programs. This role was not easy, but it was rewarding to know that each action I made was going to help change a students’ day.

In my third year of teaching, I was given the leadership role of Team Leader for our Special Education Department. As a team leader it is my responsibility to hold my peers accountable for the legal paperwork we have to complete to ensure all of our student’s needs are being met from their Individualized Educational Plans. This school year, I was nominated by my campus peers and administrators and was awarded the Teacher of the Year for Red Bluff Elementary. I was also nominated for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award. I had the honor to be one of the two co-sponsors to create a Student Council at Red Bluff. This has been an honor to bring back an active, community-based volunteer program to our school. I am serving my second year as my campus representative for our district Teacher Incentive Allotment Committee. I have been a helping hand by attending and helping plan fun and educational activities for our third and fourth grade students for our after school and Saturday tutorials. I not only work diligently hard as an educator, but I also volunteer countless hours for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This allows me the opportunity to interact with individuals across the Houston area and out of town to let them know how amazing Houston is.

It gives me great joy to know that each and every day that I come to school that my students and other students around the school wait for a good morning wave or hello. The students at Red Bluff Elementary are truly one of a kind. Knowing that I can make a difference in my students’ lives and other lives is the best reward I can receive as an educator.

2023 Appreciated Teacher Awards

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

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

A committee composed of credit union employees will select five finalists from all the nominations accepted to each receive an honorarium of $500, and be eligible for our 2023 Appreciated Teacher of the Year award. The finalists will be announced during Teacher Appreciation Week, at which time the public may submit their vote for Appreciated Teacher of the Year. The finalist with the most votes will be announced and win a $2,500 grand prize.

Spotlight: Jacob Miller, Southside Elementary

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

Spotlight: Victoria Way, Jordan High School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Lauren Palos, Stuchberry Elementary School

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

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

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

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

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

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