Teachers of the Year honored at annual UTPA event Feb. 16
Posted: 02/17/2009
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The University of Texas-Pan American honored 41 Rio Grande Valley teachers chosen by their respective school districts as 2008 Teachers of the Year during the Fourth Annual Teachers of the Year Awards banquet held Feb.16 in the UTPA Ballroom.

The teachers, joined by their school's principal and district superintendent, were greeted by Dr. Paul Sale, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and Dr. John Edwards, vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services.

Edwards thanked them for their dedication to teaching and their students and then described some of the accomplishments UTPA has made over the past few years in improving higher education opportunities for South Texas students. These accomplishments included an increase in the number of doctoral programs offered and an increase in the number of undergraduate students involved in research - from 31 in 2006 to 275 in 2008.

"We're attracting better students than in previous years and they're staying to graduation and beyond and helping change the face of the Valley. In 1999, we graduated 1,759 students, this past year 3,100 and the largest increase has been in graduate degrees," he said.

Pictured at the UTPA annual Teacher of the Year awards banquet Feb. 16 are left to right Dr. Salvador Hector Ochoa, dean, UTPA College of Education; Dr. Velma Menchaca, professor, Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education; Claudia Alonzo, Elementary Teacher of the Year, Mission ISD; Dora Newell, Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Teacher of the Year, McAllen ISD; and Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services.
Edwards also talked about UTPA's significant role in teacher preparation citing the expansion of its AP Summer Institutes offered resulting in 3,500 teachers attending the institutes in 25 different subject areas since 2003.

"Its impact on the Valley - a 1,200 percent increase in AP test-taking by students since 2003," Edwards said. "It is clear that the Valley is changing and growing and needing us in education more than ever and we have to change, raise the bar and continue to turn out even better products from our schools and from our University," he said.

Teachers of the Year are selected by school 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. The annual event at UTPA is sponsored by the Division of Enrollment and Student Services and the College of Education.

Keynote speaker Dr. Francisco Guajardo, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, challenged the teachers to continue to be role models not only in but outside the classroom.

"The work of the teacher is not something you do exclusively within the four walls. Some of the most powerful teaching that is done is outside the classroom," he said.

He encouraged them as teachers and parents to be demonstrative readers to foster increased literacy in Valley students and also stressed the importance of ethical behavior by teachers based on principled values they hold most dear.

"Go generate good news absolutely based on your good values," he said.

In one of three testimonials by Valley students regarding an honored teacher, Eli Ochoa Jr., a fourth grade student at Bryan Elementary in Mission, described making fossils and other hands-on activities he enjoyed in his second grade class at Bryan Elementary taught by Claudia Alonzo.

"I will always remember how she made learning fun. Thank you Mrs. Alonzo for inspiring me to love learning," he said.

The following elementary and secondary school teachers, respectively, were honored during the event: Noe J. Sanchez and Benjamin A. Melendez, Brownsville ISD; Maria Markle and Flora Bulnes, Donna ISD; Yolanda Garza, Daniel Rodriguez (tied elementary) and Paul Gonzales, Edcouch-Elsa ISD; Victor D. Cantu and Victor Gutierrez, Edinburg CISD; Hector Cazares and Jeff Hillbo, LaFeria ISD; Lisa Amaya and Valdemar Benoit, La Joya ISD; Marta Guerra and Angel Perez, Lasara ISD; Dionicia Ramirez and Abraham Cantu, LaVilla ISD; Arcely Sanchez and Marietta Richardson, Los Fresnos ISD; Dora Newell and Reynaldo Jope, McAllen ISD; Iliana Hinojosa and Robert Jimenez, Mercedes ISD; Claudia Alonzo and Iris Hines, Mission CISD; Iracema Zungia (elementary only), Monte Alto ISD; Norma Minkler (elementary only), Point Isabel ISD; Fernanda Sanchez and Gabriel Estrada, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD; Rosa Vela and Hermelinda Ayala, Rio Grande City CISD; Rolando Munoz and Bertha Guerra, Roma ISD; Elizabeth A. Padilla and Rolando L. Britron, San Benito CISD; David Cross and Nancy Gapsiewicz, Sharyland ISD; Sandra Rivas and Cynthia Sosa, Valley View ISD; and Victoria Ramirez and Dina De la Puente, Weslaco ISD.

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