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TASA announced today that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the 2019 Texas Teacher of the Year program.

Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year Finalists

Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD

“Our students are our future,” said Pena. “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 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. In 2017, she received the prestigious H-E-B Excellence in Education Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joe Parthemore, Cannon Elementary School, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD 

“Nurturing children from the ground up is a foundational piece in seeing students thriving,” Parthemore said. “Students are like plants in that each one is different and have needs in order to survive and thrive in their environment. As teachers, our focus can tend to be on academics and teaching all the content standards within the time constraints of the school year. It’s our responsibility to know our students beneath the surface and foster those needs because, if students do not have everything they need, they will never grow.”

Parthemore has taught fifth grade at Cannon Elementary for the past two years. He serves as a district elementary science learning leader and curriculum collaborator and coaches his campus robotics team.

Andrea Greimel, Carvajal Early Childhood Center, San Antonio ISD

For the past nine years, Greimel has taught at Carvajal Early Childhood Center, where she is the bilingual lead teacher. She has also taught at SAISD’s Storm Academy and at Burleson Elementary in Edgewood ISD during her 30-year career in education.

“For the young child, the most pertinent community is family,” Greimel said. “Our challenge is to engage not just the child, but the whole family, in the child’s development. I do this by building an inclusive community of support where teachers and families learn together. I tell my students’ parents they hold a big key to their child’s academic success. Love is the greatest motivator. If a parent reads to a child, a love of reading follows. If a parent writes, illustrates and reads family stories, the child will be empowered by love to make a mark on the world by reading and writing.”

Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalists

Megan Holden, Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD

Currently an English II and AP art history teacher, Holden has taught at LTHS for the past 20 years of her 21-year career in education.

“Over the years, I have found how important it is for students to know that someone sees or hears them,” she said. “When I find out that students are going through hardship, I find the time to speak to them privately. I ask them to tell me what’s going on, and I offer my support. Sometimes that looks like giving them a few extra days to work on a project, sometimes it means finding a kid a pair of glasses, and sometimes it is as simple as sending them to the restroom to get themselves together after a good cry.”

Holden founded LTHS’s “Fight Club,” an organization that helps teachers support students in crisis, and the “Cavalier Lounge,” a community-supported resource pantry that provides necessities for students in crisis.

Karyn Ard, Troup High School, Troup ISD

“I believe that students should be given tools to allow them to think and solve problems for themselves,” Ard said. “Education is more than memorizing; it is understanding what has been taught and being able to apply that knowledge to the world around us. I believe that we should encourage our students to be innovative, by constantly working to develop activities that are unique and not ‘cookie cutter’ in nature, because those require them to only have a basic grasp of the material in order to get a good grade. It is vital to create a culture in which students learn to be active and engaged learners who question information and search for deeper meaning not only in lessons, but also on their own.”

Ard teaches biology at Troup High School, where she has taught for the past nine years of her 22-year career in education.

Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD

A teacher for the past 12 years, he created the STEM program at Alamo Heights Junior School, where he has taught since 2012.

“Over the past four years, 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,” Wheatcraft said. “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 is also 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.

“Every day in public schools across Texas, teachers perform miracles as they inspire children for lifelong learning,” said Kevin Brown, executive director of TASA, which has coordinated the Texas Teacher of the Year program since 2011. “These six finalists are among the best in a profession that is perhaps the most important in our nation, both for individual children and for society. They are national heroes and deserve this tremendous honor. They have distinguished themselves among thousands of outstanding, dedicated teachers across our state and nation have who have answered the call to serve others.”

A panel of judges composed of representatives of Texas teacher associations and last year’s Texas Teacher of the Year finalists selected the finalists from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of the 20 Texas Education Service Center regions.

2019 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year

Region 1
Elementary – Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD (finalist)
Secondary – Timothy Cantu, United High School, United ISD

Region 2
Elementary – Evalynn Sherrod, Flour Bluff Intermediate School, Flour Bluff ISD
Secondary – Kristine Bundy, West Oso High School, West Oso ISD

Region 3
Elementary – Stacie Konvicka, Wharton Elementary School, Wharton ISD
Secondary – Janet Johnson, Wharton High School, Wharton ISD

Region 4
Elementary – Jeanna Peña, Lamkin Elementary School, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
Secondary – Holly Hartman, Memorial High School, Spring Branch ISD

Region 5
Elementary – Christy Cunningham, Bridge City Elementary School, Bridge City ISD
Secondary – Terry Morris, Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD

Region 6
Elementary – Kristi Ballard, A.R. Turner Elementary School, Willis ISD
Secondary – Jennifer Duffer, Montgomery High School, Montgomery ISD

Region 7
Elementary – Kylie Altier, Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary School, Nacogdoches ISD
Secondary – Karyn Ard, Troup High School, Troup ISD (finalist)

Region 8
Elementary – Jennifer Arden, Como-Pickton Elementary School, Como-Pickton CISD
Secondary – Tracey Campbell, Mount Pleasant Junior High School, Mount Pleasant ISD

Region 9
Elementary – Lexi Law, Ben Franklin Elementary School, Wichita Falls ISD
Secondary – Heather Preston, Rider High School, Wichita Falls ISD

Region 10
Elementary – Craig Sandy, Richardson Heights Elementary School, Richardson ISD
Secondary – Beth Poquette Drews, L.V. Stockard Middle School, Dallas ISD

Region 11
Elementary – Joe Parthemore, Cannon Elementary School, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Kyle Christensen, Bill R. Johnson CTE Center, Crowley ISD

Region 12
Elementary – Tanya Linex, Jose Antonio Navarro Elementary School, Corsicana ISD
Secondary – Joseph Merlo, C.E. Ellison High School, Killeen ISD

Region 13
Elementary – Lauren Bain, Carl Schurz Elementary School, New Braunfels ISD
Secondary – Megan Holden, Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD (finalist)

Region 14
Elementary – Kassidi Seaton, Sweetwater Intermediate School, Sweetwater ISD
Secondary – Ashlei Adams, Merkel High School, Merkel ISD

Region 15
Elementary – Macy Smithson, Fort Concho Elementary School, San Angelo ISD
Secondary – Adan Cortez III, Del Rio High School, San Felipe Del Rio CISD

Region 16
Elementary – Jan Stovall, Morningside Elementary School, Dumas ISD
Secondary – Kimberly Johnson, Borger High School, Borger ISD

Region 17
Elementary – Tiffany Beeles, Upland Heights Elementary School, Frenship ISD
Secondary – Kathy Appleton, Coronado High School, Lubbock ISD

Region 18
Elementary – Monica Soto, Alpine Elementary School, Alpine ISD
Secondary – Ashlee Castro, Alpine Middle School, Alpine ISD

Region 19
Elementary – Anna M. Peden, Desert Hills Elementary School, Clint ISD
Secondary – Eduardo Jose Hinojos, Americas High School, Socorro ISD

Region 20
Elementary – Andrea Greimel, Carvajal Early Childhood Center, San Antonio ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD (finalist)

The six finalists will be invited to Austin in September for interviews before a panel of judges composed of representatives of educational leadership 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 panel will select two state-level winners — Elementary Teacher of the Year and Secondary Teacher of the Year — and designate one to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony September 14 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year will also be recognized.

The Texas Teacher of the Year program has honored excellence in classroom education since 1969. The program, facilitated by TASA since 2011, annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching. In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD became the second Texas teacher to be named the National Teacher of the Year.