Fifty teachers recognized as Teachers of the Year from 24 Rio Grande Valley school districts were honored Nov. 15 at a Teacher of the Year Awards banquet sponsored by The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education and the Office of the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services.
Guests, who also included the principals from the schools of honored teachers and superintendents, were welcomed by UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas. During the recognition dinner, each district's Teacher of the Year was awarded a plaque from the University by Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John A. Edwards.
"The teachers that we honor tonight demonstrate the best of what is the most important profession in our society. It takes teachers of vision to engage children in the kind of learning that will prepare them for a lifetime of what will be an extraordinary century," she said.
Also participating in the ceremony were Dr. Velma Menchaca, interim dean of the College of Education, and Francisco Guajardo, assistant professor, Educational Leadership, who served as keynote speaker. Several former students of some of the honored teachers talked about the support and influence those educators provided in their lives. Testimonials were given by UTPA students Nancy Valeria Barboza, freshman majoring in business management; Aracely Tanguma, senior majoring in kinesiology; and Patrick Bryce Kennedy, sophomore majoring in business management, as well as Clarissa Medrano, eighth grade student at Cathey Middle School in McAllen.
The following elementary and secondary school teachers, respectively, were honored: Angela Martin and Raquel Cornejo, Brownsville ISD; Clarence M. Marshall and Alonzo Reyes, Donna ISD; Maria E. Iannarone and Raul Valdez, Donna ISD; Diana Rocha and Laurette A. Prestia, Edinburg CISD; Barbara M. Montalvo and Hedy C. Leochico, Hidalgo ISD; Anna Maria Elizondo and Ana M. Guerrero, La Feria ISD; Rebecca Guzman and Jose R. Mancias, La Joya ISD; Maria Elena Ramirez and Leticia Rincon, Lasara ISD; Suzanne Espericueta and Juan J. Guajardo, La Villa ISD; Teresa Hernandez and Jennifer Ruiz, Los Fresnos CISD; Jose Rafael Cantu and Patricia Luna, McAllen ISD; Deana S. Llanos and Diana Gutierrez, Mercedes ISD; Mary Navarro and Ricardo Villarreal, Mission CISD; Cynthia C. Gonzalez and Enna Vela, Pharr ISD; Jesus Garza and Steve Griffith (both elementary school honorees) and Janet Summerlin, Point Isabel ISD; Eddie Garza, (no elementary school honoree), Progreso ISD; Elias E. Saenz and Stephanie M. Guzman, Rio Grande City CISD; Melizza Galvan and Delma A. Lara, Roma ISD; Cynthia Diaz de Leon and Carol Rado, San Benito ISD; Idalia Trevino and Robert Culpepper, San Isidro ISD; Lilia Cisneros and Krystal E. Hernandez, Santa Maria ISD; Jason Huddleston and Robert Salas, Sharyland ISD; Lianna L. Castro, (no secondary school honoree), Valley View ISD; Teresa Sample and Rebecca Cohen, Weslaco ISD.
"It is nice to be recognized by the academic community, whether it is at the elementary, secondary or post-secondary level," said Jason Huddleston, elementary science lab teacher who teaches first through sixth grade at Martinez Elementary School in Sharyland ISD.
Dr. Norma Salaiz, superintendent of La Villa ISD, said she also appreciated the recognition from the University of the outstanding teachers in Valley school districts.
"This event is wonderful. You know we don't recognize our teachers enough and something like this helps to verify that their hard work and effort is valuable and appreciated," she said.
Teachers of the Year are selected by the districts annually according to the method adopted by each district. They are generally chosen based on their excellence in classroom teaching, ability to inspire and motivate students of all backgrounds and abilities, and active participation in the community as well as the school.