Friday, May 10, 2013

Two Named 2013 Teachers of the Year

A second-grade teacher with an incredible talent for combining new technology and learning, and a high school orchestra leader who focuses on continual improvement – for her students and herself – have been named as the district’s 2013 Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.

Rummel Creek Elementary School’s Theresa Schwab-Trevino and Memorial High School Orchestra Co-Director Danielle Prontka were honored as Spring Branch ISD’s Teachers of the Year at the annual Service Awards employee recognition held May 8 at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside.

Superintendent of Schools Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed.D., announced the Teachers of the Year after student speakers extolled the winning traits of six Teacher of the Year Finalists.

Other SBISD Teacher of the Year Finalists were Sandra Ramirez of Buffalo Creek Elementary; Rebecca Kim of Valley Oaks Elementary; Vicky Beard of Spring Woods High; and Tracey Jensen of Stratford High. About 400 educators and guests attended the annual dinner.

As this year’s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year, Schwab-Trevino and Prontka will now represent the district in regional competition. If successful, they will compete at the state and then national level.

The two teachers each will receive a $2,000 professional development stipend from SBISD and a $250 award from First Community Credit Union, which is a historical sponsor for this annual award.

Theresa Schwab-Trevino, who attended Spring Branch schools, earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Houston in 1997. She struggled in school herself, and uses her own life story to encourage students. Today, the English as a Second Language and Gifted & Talented instructor also holds a master’s degree in education and instructional technology from Houston Baptist University.

“[Students] are always surprised to hear about how hard it was for me to learn,” she wrote in her nomination. “Many students feel that teachers are supposed to know everything. So, when my second-graders hear how hard it was for me to read and write, and even learn math, it opens up our level of trust and helps build relationships where honesty and reality set the stage.”

Veteran Principal Nancy Harn, who has observed hundreds of teachers, said that Theresa has a special set of talents. “In my 20-plus years of experience as a teacher and an administrator, I have never worked with anyone as gifted using technology to enhance learning and motivate students,” Principal Harn said.

“I think the thing that puts Theresa Trevino over the top as a great teacher is her compassion for her students and her zest for teaching. Many of the items that she exposes students to during lessons open up numerous new avenues to students in their lives,” she also added.

Rummel Creek Elementary fourth-grader Luke Centanni spoke at Service Awards about his former teacher: “I am only one student representing many students who would like to share their Mrs. Trevino stories and how special she is. She tells us that ‘if we think about something and really put our minds to something, then we can accomplish anything.’ And we do!”

Memorial High Orchestra Director Danielle Prontka earned a bachelor of arts degree in music from Northwestern State University of Louisiana, in Natchitoches, La., in 2000. A talented violinist, she has been orchestra co-director with Bingiee Shiu since 2002 at the Echo Lane campus.

“The most significant accomplishments in my education career have been the successes of my students,” Danielle said. “I have been blessed to see several of my ex-students go into our field of education, which I believe is the greatest contribution that any educator could give to the field.”

She believes strongly in cross-curricular education in the fine arts fields. There is not a day that goes by where her orchestra students are not learning about science, history, English and math as part of class.

“Students learn about division of beats and how to change patterns from duple to compound meter. We discuss the physics of bow control and velocity versus weight. I challenge students to write essays on what emotion the music is creating,” she explains.

“We often discuss the history of the composers of music and how the time period influenced the music. It is through this multi-faceted learning that we improve the teaching profession. It is through this cross-curricular teaching that our students are constantly learning in new, creative ways,” Danielle adds.

Former Memorial High School Principal Steve Shorter, now a Human Resources Dept. district administrator, was her principal for nine years.

“One thing which strikes me as Danielle’s strength is her continuous interest in improving not only her teaching, but her organizational skills, counseling skills and her interpersonal skills. She strives as a ‘continuous learner’ to focus on ongoing improvement for herself – professionally and personally,” he said.

“There is no way for me to accurately express how much I admire her not only as a teacher, but also as a person,” Memorial High senior Charlotte McDermott told the Service Awards gathering.

“She’s one of those teachers that just ‘gets’ us high school students – she cares about us, chats with us, and all the while expects so much from us as musicians. This expectation is what drives our growth; it helps us not only to become better musicians, but conquer fears, develop a good work ethic, and so much more,” the student speaker also said.

During the evening program, the Spring Branch Education Association presented its annual Red Apple Award to a local, nonpartisan organization called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. Accepting the award were former SBISD Board of Trustees President Susan Kellner, a group founder, and organization board member Karen Peck.

TAMSA advocates for meaningful and effective student assessments in Texas that allow for more productive classroom instruction and efficient use of public funds. The group, now a major statewide organization, played a pivotal role in the Texas Legislature, which is poised to make House Bill 5 (HB5) new state law. HB 5 will reduce state-mandated, high-stakes testing for high school graduation from 15 tests to 5 tests.

Principals of the Year, which were announced earlier this year, were honored and given special awards. They are Patricia Thomas at Ridgecrest Elementary School and Karen Liska at Spring Woods Middle School.

Previous Teachers of the Year delivered short speeches on their yearlong service experience. Sharing personal remarks were past Teachers of the Year Mario Romero of Thornwood Elementary and Jamie Flint of Spring Woods High.

SBISD employees with service years ranging from five to 40 years were honored. This year, district retirees had a combined total of 3,990 years in education, and a combined service total in SBISD schools of 3,072 years.

In addition to students Charlotte McDermott of Memorial High and Luke Centanni of Rummel Creek Elementary, several other SBISD students won audience rounds of applause for their personal speeches on behalf of Teacher of the Year Finalists.

Other students speakers included Arlette Ramirez from Buffalo Creek Elementary and Will Youngblood of Valley Oaks Elementary, and Waaris Mohammad of Spring Woods High and Amy Penick of Stratford High.



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