Nancy Avila, an English instructor at Northbrook High School, has been named as SBISD’s T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher for her commitment to ninth-graders enrolled in the same campus where Nancy herself discovered a love of literature and desire to earn a college degree.
SBISD’s Board of Trustees honored Nancy on Feb. 23 at its monthly meeting. The T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher recognition is awarded to employees for ongoing efforts to embrace the district’s goal to double the number of graduates who complete either military training, technical certification, or a two- or four-year degree.
A Spring Branch native, Nancy is the second of three daughters born to immigrant parents. Nancy attended Housman Elementary, Landrum Middle and Northbrook High (Class of 1999). She graduated in 2003 from the University of Houston with a major in English literature and minors in both Spanish and secondary education.
Her two sisters, who are also college graduates, work in nursing and construction management today. Nancy's father passed away when she was in high school, but her mom's pride in her three adult daughters is deep, Nancy says.
"The American dream?" Nancy asks rhetorically. "For me, that is very much alive. That is what drives what I do, and why I do it."
Nancy joined Northbrook High's English faculty in 2004. At first, Nancy wasn't sure that working in the same high school she attended as a teen was for her, but after 11 years teaching at Northbrook she has adopted each ninth-grade English class as her "babies."
Northbrook High's Jackie Garcia, an academic advisor at the school, recalls Mrs. Avila serving as 2009 Class Sponsor when she was student president. "She was our main support, wonderful and amazing. She stayed after hours for us, and I kept in touch with her. She would always have me speak to her freshman classes when I visited," says Jackie, who earned degrees in biomedical sciences and Spanish from Texas A&M University in 2013.
Former teacher Kathy Ulbrich instilled a love of English literature and reading in Nancy, especially after her father's death. Nancy wants her ninth-graders to have confidence about their ability to speak, read and write clearly.
“Spring Branch and Northbrook High School gave me a solid foundation. I want to give back to my community and to my alma mater. I want all of my students to know that I came from this place, that I did well here, and that they can do well, too," she says.
Nancy respects her ninth-grade teaching team highly, and views such supportive colleagues as essential to her career. In addition to her teaching duties, Nancy and her husband, a dentist, are the parents of two young daughters.
Remarks by Academic Advisor Jackie Garcia to Trustees:
My name is Jackie Garcia. I am currently an Academic Advisor here at Northbrook High School. It is an honor for me to be here, not only to recognize Nancy Avila as the T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher, but also because six years ago I was the recipient of a Character Without Question Award like students here tonight.
Today, I would like to discuss with you the amazing teacher that Mrs. Avila is, and share a little about the wonderful experience I had as a student. Mrs. Avila was not my teacher in high school, but we did have the opportunity to work together when I was Class President, and she was our class sponsor.
There is no doubt that Mrs. Avila was our biggest cheerleader. There were a few times where I myself was stressed about our class’s fund-raising goals and all of our upcoming activities. As Class President, I was afraid that we might not meet our goals, and that it would all reflect on me. If it was not for Mrs. Avila’s positive outlook and support, I don’t know how I would have done it.
Many times, she stayed after hours to work with us and help us in whatever way she could. Not only did she focus on sponsoring our class, but when it was time for us to start applying for college and scholarships, Mrs. Avila was on top of all of us, making sure that we got applications submitted. If we needed help, she was there. I cannot tell you how many essays she alone edited for us, even if many were last-minute requests.
I am thankful that Northbrook High has Mrs. Avila. She is an outstanding teacher and individual who goes above and beyond what is normally expected of teachers for her students. Every time I came back to visit her, she would ask me to talk and share my post-secondary experiences with her freshmen.
We all know most teachers are very protective of how their class time is used, but Mrs. Avila willingly gave up a few minutes of her lesson plans so that her students could learn more directly about education after high school. Even though I was put on the spot and had to come up with inspirational things to say right then and right there, not one bit of me was bothered because her intentions were always good.
Mrs. Avila is a true inspiration and a great role model – for me and for all of her students. She deserves this recognition, and I am thankful to be here tonight, and to be a part of this recognition. Thank you, Mrs. Avila, for all you do!