Six educators named Teacher of the Year finalists

[TEA] (Austin) Six exceptional educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the Texas Teacher of the Year program, Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced Aug. 23.

Three elementary and three secondary school educators were selected from the 40 regional Teachers of the Year from each of the state’s 20 education service center areas. The finalists will now vie for the honor of being named Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

The elementary school finalists are: 

Karen Mormon, reading specialist at JW Webb Elementary in McKinney ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.













Erika Pierson, first grade teacher at Round Rock High School in Round Rock ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.



June Shanahan, fifth grade teacher at Scobee Elementary in San Antonio's Northside ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.

The secondary education finalists are:

Tracy Pippins, chemistry and biology teacher at Graham High School in Graham ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.









Stephanie Stoebe, reading teacher at Round Rock High School in Round Rock ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.










Steven Singleton, biology teacher at Randall High School in Canyon ISD. Photo courtesy of TEA.











“I congratulate these six amazing teachers who inspire their students and their colleagues to excel, both in and out of the classroom. These six finalists represent the many dedicated teachers throughout the state who strive to make a difference,” said Scott.

In their Teacher of the Year applications, each educator offered insight into their teaching philosophy and style.

Morman, the elementary reading specialist at McKinney ISD, writes: “As I glance at the myriad of student notes that mark my journey as a teacher, it reinforces my belief that teachers are the most important factor to success in the classroom. One student’s note pulls at my heartstrings when she shares that reading has been difficult for her in the past, and thanks me for helping her enjoy reading. It is a teacher’s positive attitudes, high expectations, and the joy for learning that is modeled in the classroom that will make the difference in students’ lives.”  

Pierson, who teaches at Live Oak Elementary, writes that she used to think she just had one year to impact the life of a child, but has since determined that she has a continuous stake in that child. We all do. “A child can have a wonderful year with a wonderful teacher, but that is not enough. The memories of that experience will fade, the facts learned and field trips taken will be forgotten. But the truth is, most often, a child needs a stack of these experiences, a crowd of people who know their name, who hug them, discipline them, listen and love them and guide them on that journey to adulthood. A child needs all of us.”  

Shanahan, the Scobee Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, writes that meaningful connections are the heart and soul of effective teaching.  “I view teaching as so much larger than the walls of the classroom and so much more important than curriculum and tests. It is about students fulfilling their potential as people and citizens of the world. It is about relationships, and love, and helping each other grow. When miracles happen in our Texas public schools, it is because of the compassion that teachers bring to each student.”

Pippins, a high school science teacher in Graham ISD, said that her second grade teacher, Mrs. Woolum, was the reason she loved school. “I knew I could become someone great because Mrs. Woolum said I could and made me believe in myself.” When Pippins learned that her family would be moving, she was worried about the first day at her new school. “I overheard the teacher whose class I was to be placed in say, ‘Another new one? I got the last one.’ Looking back, I know that teacher did not mean to make me feel insignificant. But she inadvertently taught me a valuable lesson about how I would teach. Every day I strive to show my students that if they will give me a few minutes every day, I can help them to learn something new. In return each and every one teaches me.”

Stoebe of Round Rock High School said in her application that she worked for the regional probation department in Texas and her job was to help defenders earn their high school diploma or GED. But she knew she could make a real difference if she were a teacher and could reach them when they were young. “My most significant contributions to education will be that I gave hope to children when they had none. I gave direction to students who were lost, both emotionally and academically. I taught kids to read; first the words, then the sentences, and then finally, they understood that education is the great equalizer in society today.”

Singleton from Amarillo believes that he would have never attended college if his high school principal, Mr. Johnson, hadn’t shown him that he could succeed. A child of a divorced family, who lived with several different relatives and attended many different schools, never really believed in himself. “I actually decided to become a teacher during college while on a visit to a local inter-city school district with the baseball team where we read to the students. You see, I remember what it was like to live on ‘that side of the tracks’ and understand what ‘poor’ really meant. I understood what it feels like to not believe in ‘you.’ Most importantly, I understood the power and influence an individual can have on someone, just like Mr. Johnson had done for me.”   

The finalists were selected by a panel of judges who represent the state’s four teacher organizations. The judges were: Noel Candelaria of the Texas State Teachers Association; Holly Eaton of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association; Ana Pomar of the Texas AFT; and Cheryl Buchanan of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

The six finalists will now be invited to Austin for interviews on Sept. 10 before a larger judging panel, which will determine the top elementary and secondary teacher. One of the top winners will also be selected to go forward to be considered for National Teacher of the Year honors. The national program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Texas Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year, as well as all of the regional Teachers of the Year will be honored at a luncheon and awards ceremony on Oct. 14 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

The Texas Teacher of the Year program is a joint project of the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Association of School Administrators this year.

Official Texas Education Agency news release. Photos by TEA. For more information, click here.

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