TASA, which facilitates the Texas Teacher of the Year program, has named Rhonda Peña, a fifth-grade mathematics teacher from Mission CISD, the 2019 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Jeff Wheatcraft, an eighth-grade science teacher from Alamo Heights ISD, the 2019 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. Wheatcraft was chosen to represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
The announcement was made at the Texas Teacher of the Year awards luncheon on Friday, September 14, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Both state-level winners will receive a cash award and a commemorative trophy.
Also honored during the luncheon were the Regional Teachers of the Year and the finalists for Texas Teacher of the Year: Karyn Ard, Troup ISD; Andrea Greimel, San Antonio ISD; Megan Holden, Lake Travis ISD; and Joe Parthemore, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD.
2019 Texas Teacher of the Year
Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD
“Over the past four years, I have been charged with the creation and caretaking of our school’s STEM program,” said Jeff Wheatcraft, 2019 Texas Teacher of the Year (and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year). “I have worked collaboratively with other teachers and the administration to craft a program that has enhanced the learning opportunities of our students while changing the school’s culture, especially regarding young women in STEM fields.”
“Originally, we designed the course to feed into our high school rocketry program. But in three years, the STEM class has grown both figuratively and literally beyond the confines of the classroom we occupy. The majority of lessons are real-world problems with no definitive solution. I want students to know that there are still problems we are facing that need to be solved, and they have the skills to find solutions.”
Wheatcraft teaches eighth-grade science at Alamo Heights Junior School, where he has taught since 2012. Prior to that he taught at Kirby Middle School in Judson ISD for six years. In addition to being named Alamo Heights ISD Teacher of the Year and Region 20 Secondary Teacher of the Year this year, Wheatcraft is the 2018 recipient of the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching and has twice been nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.
2019 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year
Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD
“Our students are our future,” said Rhonda Peña, 2019 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. “They deserve to have every ounce of our efforts to help guide them toward a productive life. By building a relationship with each of our students, we are also building the respect that they will have for us, for each other, and for themselves, and we are setting the path towards a successful life.”
Peña, who teaches fifth-grade mathematics, has taught at Bryan Elementary for the past 25 years of her 28-year career in education.
She has been chosen as Bryan Elementary School Teacher of the Year twice: in 2018 and 2012, and as Mission CISD Teacher of the Year this year. In 2017, she received the prestigious H-E-B Excellence in Education Lifetime Achievement Award.
Texas Teacher of the Year Program
To achieve recognition as Texas Elementary or Secondary Teacher of the Year, a teacher must first be chosen as a campus and district teacher of the year, then a regional honoree. From the group of 40 regional teachers of the year, six finalists are chosen and interviewed by an independent panel of judges composed of representatives of education associations, community and business leaders, a member of the State Board for Educator Certification, a member of the State Board of Education, and prior Texas Teachers of the Year.
The state’s top elementary and secondary teachers are selected from these six finalists, and the Texas nominee for National Teacher of the Year is chosen from the top two winners. In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD was the second Texas teacher to be named the National Teacher of the Year. See a list of past year winners.
The Texas Teacher of the Year program has honored excellence in classroom education since 1969 and continues to annually recognize and reward teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching. The program operates with financial support and in-kind contributions from the following:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Raise Your Hand Texas
Texas Association of School Boards (TASB)
Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA)
Vanir Construction Management
Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE)
Texas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Texas ASCD)
Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO)
Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA)
Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP)
Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA)
Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA)
Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA)