Forty-six teachers named as 2007 Teachers of the Year from 24 Rio Grande Valley school districts were honored Jan. 23 during the third annual Teachers of the Year Awards banquet sponsored by The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education and the UTPA Division of Enrollment and Student Services.
Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, associate vice president and dean of Admissions and Enrollment Services and Undergraduate Admissions Office, welcomed the guests that also included school principals and district superintendents. Each teacher was given a plaque to honor their achievements during the program moderated by Dr. Salvador Hector Ochoa, dean, UTPA College of Education.
Testimonials regarding three of the top teachers being honored were given by Ray Hernandez, a seventh grade student, who spoke about his first grade teacher Cindy Lawrence at John Shary Elementary; Bob Olvera, now a teacher, coach and co-worker of his teacher Estella Salinas at Sharyland High School; and Brittany Garcia, who talked about her teacher John Robinson at Enrique Camarena Elementary in La Joya.
Hernandez said his teacher, Lawrence, provided a successful balance between knowledge and fun in her classroom and instead of discouraging him when he expressed an interest as a first grader in being the first Hispanic president of the United States, she promised to vote for him one day.
"I remember being able to ask questions without feeling embarrassed, being encouraged to share my own ideas and feeling important when I did either of those," he said. "Mrs. Lawrence taught me there are many things to love about learning and her classroom was as comfortable a place to be as my own home."
During a keynote address, Dr. Miguel de los Santos, associate professor in the College of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and a former superintendent of both the Edinburg and San Benito school districts, talked about the many attributes of top teachers and the important role they play in the lives of students.
"You have chosen to create a good learning plan to make a child's life joyous. You are always active learners and you strive constantly to imagine how things look from a child's point of view," he said. "When I tell stories about teachers who taught me and influenced my life I consider their knowledge of subject matter of lesser value than my association for the memories that he respected me, or she believed in me or they cared about me."
De los Santos challenged them as top teachers to continue to learn, to lead students by example and to help other teachers to excel.
"I implore you to use your talents to help those fellow teachers in need of assistance. You must mentor not only your students but also as many of your colleagues you can possibly touch," he said.
The following elementary and secondary school teachers, respectively, were recognized during the event: Coral Palmer and Noe Frausto, Brownsville ISD; Teresa Infante and Isaias Solis, Donna ISD; Alicia Medina (elementary only), Edcouch-Elsa ISD; Kimberley Baus and Claudia P. Mata, Edinburg CISD; Claudia Yunez and Enedina Esquivel (both elementary), Hidalgo ISD; Viola R. Trevino and Matilde Herrera, La Feria ISD; John Robinson and Victor DeLeon, La Joya ISD; Dorothy Guerra and Jacquelyn Y. Maldonado, Lasara ISD; Bertha Reyes and Dalia Puga, La Villa ISD; Deborah Mercado and Carla Maza, Los Fresnos ISD; Evelyn Cano and William Hetrick , McAllen ISD; Dawn Sepulveda and Pete Martinez Jr., Mercedes ISD; Sonia Debelle-Longoria and Miriam Klippel, Mission CISD; Yvonne Fernandez and Juana "Janie" Tamez, Monte Alto ISD; Jose Rodriguez (elementary only), Point Isabel ISD; Estela Flores and Minette Hernandez, PSJA ISD; Enedina Figueroa and Mark Gillette, Rio Grande City CISD; Elias Perez and Jorge Guzman, Roma ISD; Silvia Manjarrez Garcia and Maria Dominga Galvan, San Benito CISD; Maria M. Soto and Norma Juarez, San Isidro ISD; Monica Villanueva (elementary) and Nancy King and Corazon Sibayan (both secondary), Santa Maria ISD; Cindy Lawrence and Estella Salinas, Sharyland ISD; Carmen Arevalo (elementary only), Valley View ISD; and Julia Irene Kidd and Mercedes Yanez, Weslaco ISD.