Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stars in the Classroom

Eleventh-grader Brenda Nunez at Spring Woods High School wrote four short paragraphs about debate and speech teacher Vicky Beard, then submitted her nomination to area First Community Credit Union and its Stars in the Classroom program for exceptional educators.

“From encouraging us to attend college and leading our debate team to success, to simply being a second mother to everyone on the student team, she truly deserves to be recognized as a Star in the Classroom,” Brenda wrote.
“A phrase commonly heard from Mrs. Beard is: ‘All of my babies attend college!’ She assures everyone that all those ‘babies’ have a bright future. Realizing that more than 50 percent of our team come from low-income families, she also helpsus gain scholarships.”
Brenda’s message-in-a-bottle nomination found receptive readers at First Community Credit Union. On Tuesday, Dec. 18, Brenda stood stunned with little tears of joy rolling down one cheek inside Board’s debate room.
As one of 10 winners in the credit union’s Stars in the Classroom program, Mrs. Beard won a $500 donation, Houston Texans tickets and sideline passes and a classroom visit by Houston Texan offensive fullback James Casey, who is the face of the Stars in the Classroom program.
In addition to her $500 check and personal congratulations, Casey, presented Mrs. Beard with a signed Texans shirt, No. 86, his player position number. “I’ll never wash it!” Beard beamed.
She also attended Sunday’s game against the Colts with family. “I hollered at you!” she teased the strapping Houston Texan.
Casey’s own life story is an incredible tale of personal loss and achievement. He grew up near Fort Worth, living in trailer homes with his parents. When he was 16 and a sophomore in high school, his mother died in a trailer fire while he was in class.
Essentially homeless, he depended on his girlfriend’s family and his athletic trainer to help him graduate on time from high school. Through it all, he never lost belief in himself and his future.
Brenda won a group audible exclamation when Casey handed her a football autographed by him and by Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Brenda is a debate class student. Under Beard, students in debate and speech have placed nationally several times recently, and her teams have lined her classroom walls with shiny state and regional trophies.
Beard attended Meadow Wood Elementary, Spring Forest Middle, the former Westchester High School and later graduated from Stratford High. She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech/theatre from Houston Baptist University, as well as a master’s degree in theatre from the University of Houston. Drama pays off for her prize-winning students.
“I am extremely grateful to my student Brenda Nunez who entered me in this contest. She knew we needed the money to pay for entry fees for future debate tournaments that the team will now attend. This is where the $500 will be spent,” Beard said. “It was truly an awesome day which I will remember for years to come!”
Texans starting fullback Casey, 28, now in this fourth NFL season, held spellbound 50 students who gathered in Beard’s room. He patiently explained to them the benefit of college and higher education. At Rice University where he played football as an older student, he triple majored in economics, managerial studies and sports management.
He was not the best or brightest student, either. “Stay in school,” he urged the students.
“I’m not the smartest person, but I work hard and I stay focused on doing what others won’t do so that I am better prepared,” he said. His personal motto, on and off the football field, is: “To achieve what you want, you have to do what others don’t.”
He arrives at Reliant Stadium at about 5:30 a.m. every day, earlier than all but his quarterback, Schaub. “You can’t play football forever, so I’m going to make sure I do as much as I can now so when it ends, I know I did everything I could,” he said.
He earned a football scholarship at Rice after spending four years in minor league baseball. Rice for him was all about football and studying, especially as an older student. “I looked on it like a business venture. I prioritized my time – school and football.” No partying.
He was known as “Thor” on campus there, and in one game he played seven different positions, including quarterback and punt returner. He set school records with 111 catches for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had five rushing touchdowns.
“I have options now. You have few options without a high school diploma. Life is short, and we all learned that this past week. You only have so much time. It’s really about you deciding what you want to do. Stay in school and have options.”
For more information on First Community Credit Union (FCCU) or on the Stars in Classrooms Program, visit the FCCU website:


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