Friday, May 9, 2014

SBISD Teachers of the Year Named

A third-grade language arts and social studies teacher with a wonderful talent for teaching students to read and write well and a high school instructor who teaches in five separate subject areas have been selected as Spring Branch ISD’s 2014 Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.  View photo gallery from event >>

Hunters Creek Elementary School’s Naomi “Omi” Ford and Academy of Choice’s Nicole Harris were announced as Spring Branch ISD’s Teachers of the Year during the May 7 Service Awards employee recognition event held at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside.

Hunters Creek Elementary's Naomi Ford - SBISD Elementary Teacher of the Year (2014)
Academy of Choice's Nicole Harris - SBISD Secondary Teacher of the Year (2014)
Superintendent of Schools Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed.D., announced the Teachers of the Year after student speakers praised and extolled the virtues of the district’s six finalists for the annual award.

In addition to Ford and Harris,Teacher of the Year Finalists were Delfino Guillen of Buffalo Creek Elementary, Adelina Phucas of Housman Elementary, Abigayl Flores of Landrum Middle, and Claudia Castillo of Northbrook High.

More than 400 educators and guests attended this year’s annual dinner. Serving as this year’s masters of ceremonies were Spring Woods High seniors Christian Rice and Avery Reinhart, who are award-winning debate students.

SWHS Theatre Performance at the 2014 Service Awards Event

At dinner time, musical theatre selections were provided by Spring Woods High’s Safari Players. The student troupe sang and danced to music from State Fair, also serving as the evening’s festive theme.

As this year’s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year, Ford and Harris will represent the district in regional competition. If successful, they’ll compete later 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, a regular sponsor of yearly Service Awards event.

Omi Ford earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. She’s taught students of varied demographic backgrounds for nine years, including six years at Hunters Creek. 

“My contribution is my heart,” Omi says. “I’ve been in different schools and I’ve worked with students at each extreme. No matter rich, poor, dyslexic, gifted, English-language learner, boy or girl, I hope that the time I invest in them has made a difference to them. I hope that they know that I continue to believe in them and they are loved.”

Hunters Creek Elementary Principal Robye Snyder states that Omi has extremely high expectations for herself and her students, and she helps each student reach his or her full potential.

“Omi is able to keep each student challenged and right on the cutting edge of learning without causing the child to be stressed. Her bright students are challenged and motivated to learn. Her struggling learners are challenged and motivated as well,” Principal Snyder says. “She is able to provide each student with just the right amount of support to be the best that [student] can be.”

Hunters Creek Elementary third-grader Zoey Epley spoke at Service Awards from a simple and direct point of view: “I think Mrs. Ford really enjoys teaching us kids, and I really enjoy being one of her students. She has done a lot for us; she is always patient and kind and never gives up on us . . . even though we talk a lot!!”

At SBISD’s Academy of Choice for the past three years, Nicole Harris has taught world geography, government, economics, psychology and sociology. A teacher for 11 years, Nicole earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, and then a master’s degree in educational leadership from Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.

Nicole has as many as five course preps in a single day. Her talent for leading secondary students who have chosen AOC’s nontraditional path to personal growth, self-awareness and graduation is matched by few. 

“Giving of love, knowledge, or passion does not draw from your stock, but plants a seed to help others cultivate their own. Students blossom with independence and are able to attribute their successes and learning back to themselves,” Nicole says.

“Nicole Harris is a tremendous asset to our team at the Academy of Choice,” states Principal Michele Hilberth, Ed.D. “Nicole maintains a high degree of flexibility and understanding as a professional educator. These standards, among many others that Ms. Harris possesses, are crucial to the nontraditional goals set forth in the mission we have here at the Academy of Choice.”

Academy of Choice sophomore Yancey Elguezabel told the gathered Omni Hotel audience that Ms. Harris has high energy, a positive attitude and cares for her kids.

“In my mind, Ms. Harris is one of the best teachers I have ever met. Her style of teaching is unbelievable. She doesn’t just teach the class, she engages us. Plus, she acts like her true being, making us feel welcomed and human,” Yancey says.

“This quote says it all: ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.’ This is Ms. Harris’ teaching style, and I am inspired by her,” she told the ballroom audience.

Other students who spoke on behalf of  Teachers of the Year Finalists were Angel Beltran of Buffalo Creek Elementary, Mayianni Rodriguez of Housman Elementary, Rocio Sidonio of Landrum Middle School and Lizette Lopez of Northbrook High.

During the evening program, the Spring Branch Education Association presented its annual Red Apple Award to two separate groups. Seitel Inc. and Richard Seitel were honored for 10 years of service and support to students, teachers and staff at the Panda Path School for Early Learning.

Sharing in this year’s Red Apple Award were SPARK Parks and leader Kathleen Ownby. The group has now built more than 200 community parks in area school districts, including SBISD. The district has more than a dozen such school parks, and new ones are planned at four more SBISD campuses soon.

SBISD Board of Trustees member Chris Gonzalez accepted the SPARK Parks award on behalf of Kathleen Ownby.

Principals of the Year, announced before the May 7 event, were also recognized and presented awards. Honored this year were Nancy Harn of Rummel Creek Elementary School and Chris Juntti of Stratford High School. Both spoke briefly. 

Students speaking on their behalf were Rummel Creek’s Andrew Holland and Katherine Kennedy of Stratford High.

Previous Teachers of the Year delivered short speeches on their service experience. Sharing their remarks were the past Teachers of the Year Theresa Schwab-Trevino of Rummel Creek Elementary and Danielle Prontka of Memorial High.

SBISD Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman honored retirees by sharing that these employees had a combined total of 3,154 years in education, and average number of years in education of 25½ years. They averaged 20 years of service with SBISD, or more than 2,400 years in the district.

In addition, district employees with service years ranging from five up to 40 years were honored by Trustees.


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