Tuesday, May 19, 2015

AOC Teacher Earns Houston West Chamber Honor

Nicole Harris is announced as winner of  Christa McAuliffe in Search of Excellence
Nicole Harris knew early on that she would be involved with education. Between influential teachers and a program in high school that allowed her to work part-time as a teacher’s assistant in preK and kindergarten classrooms, Harris entered college with a career plan in mind.

Harris, a social studies teacher at Academy of Choice, was recognized recently as the Christa McAuliffe in Search of Excellence award for secondary teachers at the Houston West Chamber of Commerce’s 25th annual Business and Education Partnership Luncheon.

“It’s an absolute honor to be recognized,” Harris said. “There are so many amazing teachers out there in Spring Branch ISD and the West Houston area. To be recognized as representative of all those great individuals, I am honored.”

Several hundred educators and business partners attended the May 8 luncheon at Lakeside Country Club, where a winner was announced from finalists in elementary, secondary and post-secondary categories. Last year’s Spring Branch ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year, Omi Harris, was a finalist in the elementary category.

Harris is social studies department leader at AOC, where she teaches or has taught government, economics, student leadership, world history, psychology and sociology. She’s taught for 12 years, four in Spring Branch.

School Director Michele Hilberth said that besides being a great teacher, Harris has a “whole school” mindset and works for the success of all AOC students. She’s particularly adept at staff development, Hilberth said, serving as the go-to person for International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) and is also Love and Logic-trained.

“(Harris is) always willing to jump in and help pull off some type of training so that teachers at AOC can have more tools in their toolboxes to assist individual students,” said Hilberth. “I always tell people that AOC staff create a school that fits the student instead of forcing the student to fit the school. Nicole has great skill in making this happen.”

Harris grew up in Cibolo outside of San Antonio, earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin and a Master’s of Education in educational administration from Wayland Baptist University in San Antonio.

She taught middle school in her alma mater school district (Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD) for eight years before coming to Spring Branch and the Academy of Choice to teach high school.

“I love teaching high school because it is the final years of public education in which students culminate all of what their teachers over the years have prepared them for,” said Harris. “The ability to assist in preparing young adults for their entry into the next steps of their lives in so rewarding.”

Spring Branch business partner Tres Market was recognized with a business partnership award for nominees with 1-25 employees.

Master of Ceremonies Len Cannon of KHOU led a panel discussion on HB5 and the West Houston workforce. Panelists were HD Chambers, Ailef ISD superintendent; David Esquibel, workforce development specialist with Shell Oil; Dr. Zachary Hodges, president, Houston Community College Northwest; and Dr. Pam Wells, executive director, Region 4 Service Center.


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