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UTPA honors Valley Teachers of the Year
Posted: 11/22/2006
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Forty-two teachers recognized as Teachers of the Year from 21 Rio Grande Valley school districts were honored Nov. 9 at the second annual 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.

This year, besides awarding the teachers a plaque recognizing their achievement on behalf of the University, Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, surprised the Teacher of the Year honorees by offering each of them credit toward one graduate course at UTPA to be taken during the 2007 spring semester or the 2007 summer sessions at no charge.

"The strength of UTPA is based in part on our partnership with you," Sale said to appreciative attendees.

Pictured left to right at a Nov. 9 UTPA awards dinner honoring Teachers of the Year chosen by Rio Grande Valley school districts are Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services; keynote speaker Eduardo Reyna, a teacher at Brown Middle School in the McAllen ISD; Teachers of the Year Ronny Cabrera, La Joya ISD, Manuela Sanchez, Edinburg CISD and Manuel Camarillo, Edcouch-Elsa ISD; Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; and Dr. Velma Menchaca, interim dean of the UTPA College of Education.
Serving as moderator of the event was Dr. Velma Menchaca, interim dean of the UTPA College of Education. Guests were welcomed by Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president of Enrollment and Student Services, who reminded them of the important role they play in inspiring student success.

"It may not matter how many buildings you build, how many programs you initiate ... the critical juncture for education and success is what goes on between students and teachers. When teachers connect with students and challenge, inspire and encourage them, and go through the process of learning with them, positive results occur," said Edwards, who went on to describe the increased numbers of students entering UTPA already having college credit and the corresponding improved graduation rates. "That's the kind of difference we are making working together to encourage our college bound students to take rigorous courses in high school."

Eduardo Reyna, a teacher at Brown Middle School in the McAllen ISD served as the keynote speaker. A 1973 cum laude graduate of Pan American University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and certification in bilingual/bicultural education, Reyna has worked in the McAllen ISD for the past 33 years and for the last 23 years has been with the district's program for gifted students. A former finalist for State Teacher of the Year, Reyna spoke to the honorees about staying motivated in face of the challenges and frustrations and the important impact teachers have on students.

"Ours is a noble profession - if a teacher makes a mistake it has a profound effect on the future. If we don't prepare ourselves and if we don't learn it right, it has a tremendous impact. You are the best of the best. There is something special about you. Don't let it go to waste; share your expertise," he said.

Testimonials regarding two teachers being honored were given by Nancy Tovar, a La Joya High School senior, who spoke about secondary school educator Ronnie Cabrera and Priscilla Aguilar, a Valley View High School senior, who spoke about Miguel Guel, a Valley View ISD elementary school teacher.

Tovar, who moved from Monterrey, Mexico just three years ago, said Cabrera inspired and encouraged her to never give up.

"He encouraged me to show excellence in everything that I do," said Tovar, who is currently taking concurrent enrollment courses at UTPA and plans to become an ESL teacher helping others to learn English.

A PowerPoint presentation by Aguilar, also from Mexico, highlighted Guel's positive influence throughout her life starting as her first teacher in kindergarten, where she said he gave her "all his support."

"His teaching gave me the confidence to be successful in high school," said Aguilar, who is ranked eighth in her high school class and is also enrolled in concurrent enrollment classes at UTPA with the hopes of entering a premedical program in college.

The following elementary and secondary school teachers, respectively, were honored: Robert Rivera and Drue Ann Wise, Brownsville ISD; Marcela Constantino and Sylvia Cantu Vela, Donna ISD; Manuel Camarillo and Sue Ann Perez, Edcouch-Elsa ISD; Manuela Sanchez and Victoria A. Garcia, Edinburg CISD; Leonor de la Garza and Aurelia H. Carranza, Hidalgo ISD; Carol Terry and Cindy Moore, La Feria ISD; Cynthia Fuentes and Ronny Cabrera, La Joya ISD; Connie Aparicio and Juliana S. Cantu (both elementary school honorees) and Isreal Quintanilla, Lasara ISD; Dawn Osborn and John Dunkin, Los Fresnos CISD; Lorraine Mosher and Laura Nikstad, McAllen ISD; Cecilia Martinez and Sophia Dumford-Guerrero, Mercedes ISD; John P. Warren and Rebecca Leal, Mission CISD; Karen Palapar and Marie Gower, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD; Orpha R. Avila and Edith N. Morales, Rio Grande City CISD; Anjanette Ibanez and Daniel Lee Trevino, Roma ISD; Thelva D. Reza and Priscilla Noriega, San Benito ISD; Viola Hinojosa and Lucia De Lopez, San Isidro ISD; Ruben Quintanilla and Krystal Hernandez, Santa Maria ISD; Tammy Meyer and Mary Jo Brisnahan, Sharyland ISD; Miguel Angel Guel (no secondary school honoree), Valley View ISD; and Consuelo Cavazos and Melba Tijerina, Weslaco ISD. Middle school teacher Lincoln Speece in the Santa Maria ISD was also honored.

Connie Aparicio, who team teaches kindergarten at Lasara Elementary with her sister Julie Cantu, also a district Teacher of the Year, said it was an honor to be recognized.

"Seeing those kids up there talking about their teachers made me cry. These kids are so grateful to us. It's up to us to make the students what they are and excited about education. We make them learn to love to read and to love school," she said.

Being honored gave Melba Tijerina, a family and consumer science teacher at South Palm Gardens High School in the Weslaco ISD, an extra boost of confidence she said.

"This is just an additional golden star I have received. It is special however because it is at the University and I'm among a lot of fellow educators and professors," said Tijerina, who this year was also recognized as a secondary school regional Teacher of the Year.

Teachers of the Year are selected by 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.

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