TASA has announced that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the 2020 Texas Teacher of the Year program.
Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year Finalists
Juliette Broussard, Rick Schneider Middle School, Pasadena ISD
“I’m a firm believer in the idea that real change in our students’ learning often comes packaged in fresh ideas,” said Broussard, who has taught fifth grade science at Rick Schneider Middle School for the past four years. “We need to capture their interest while we guide them into achievements they may not have anticipated on their own.” During her 14-year career in education, Broussard has also taught in Japan and the Bahamas.
Perla Lozoya, Dr. Sue Shook Elementary, Socorro ISD
“My classroom is a safe community where my students are known and valued. It is a place where they build foundational skills and make sense of big ideas,” said Lozoya, who has taught fourth grade for the past four years at Shook Elementary. “But learning opportunities extend beyond our classroom. As a teacher, I make sure that experiences beyond the boundaries of our school are integrated into the core of our learning.” Lozoya was a social worker prior to beginning her teaching career 14 years ago.
Karen Sams, David Crockett Elementary, Weatherford ISD
“Students learn best by being engaged and collaborating with others,” said Sams, who has taught second and third grades at Crockett Elementary for the past three years. “One way that I connect with students and reach them on a more personal level is through humor. When teachers share a laugh or a smile with students, it helps them feel more comfortable and open to learning.” In her 15-year career in education, Sams has taught first through third grades, as well as K-5 music.
Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalists
Kami Dodds, Brady High School, Brady ISD
“As an educator, I have always believed that teachers should teach more than just academics. We need to guide our students in their actions, so they can and will become the best possible versions of themselves,” said Dodds, who has taught special education at Brady High School for the past four years of her nine-year teaching career. “People with positive social skills advocate, work to get along with others, and become respected.” Dodds was also a semifinalist for the 2018 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award.
Jennifer Garner, River Road High School, River Road ISD
“Every second you are gifted with a student is to be used, not only for math, but for a connection,” said Garner, who has taught geometry, Algebra II, and in the alternative program at River Road High School for the past year of her 18-year career in teaching. “Students will learn and respond to teachers who care about them as individuals, not as scores.” Garner is also a 2019 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Michelle Sandoval, Parkland Middle School, Ysleta ISD
“Transparency is everything in education. When you are a real human in front of your students, you earn respect,” said Sandoval, who has taught eighth-grade math at Parkland Middle School for the past year of her 10-year teaching career. “My only wish is that when I am transparent with them and show them that I too was from Northeast El Paso with a middle-class working family, that they too can be successful. I hope I can give them the key to their dreams with simple lessons on the fundamentals of money.”
“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.”
On August 5, 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.
2020 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year
Elementary – Roberto Valdez Jr., Juarez Lincoln Elementary, United ISD
Secondary – Nicole Ordaz, Porter Early College High School, Brownsville ISD
Elementary – Laura Groseclose, Fulton Learning Center, Aransas County ISD
Secondary – Jonathan Gain, Flour Bluff High School, Flour Bluff ISD
Elementary – Carleen Thrash, Wharton Elementary School, Wharton ISD
Secondary – Anna Zahn, El Campo High School, El Campo ISD
Elementary – Juliette Broussard, Rick Schneider Middle School, Pasadena ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Joe Paneitz, Career and Technology Education Center, Humble ISD
Elementary – Blisha Swearingen, Lumberton Intermediate School, Lumberton ISD
Secondary – Justin Lezak, East Chambers Junior High/Intermediate School, East Chambers ISD
Elementary – Julie Cooper, Greens Prairie Elementary, College Station ISD
Secondary – Erin Stutts, College Station High School, College Station ISD
Elementary – Kristina Wyman, Hallsville Intermediate School, Hallsville ISD
Secondary – Tammie Evans, Carthage High School, Carthage ISD
Elementary – Darlene Greenlee, Crestview Elementary, New Boston ISD
Secondary – Timothy Davis, Mount Pleasant High School, Mount Pleasant ISD
Elementary – Kevin Hunter, Shive Elementary, Vernon ISD
Secondary – Hayli Castillo, Graham Junior High, Graham ISD
Elementary – Marilyn Hamilton, Mary Evans Elementary, Allen ISD
Secondary – Micah Rice, Herman Furlough Jr. Middle School, Terrell ISD
Elementary – Karen Sams, David Crockett Elementary, Weatherford ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Brian Ketcham, Keller High School, Keller ISD
Elementary – Greg Oubre, Dean Highland Elementary, Waco ISD
Secondary – Morgan Castillo, Woodgate Intermediate School, Midway ISD
Elementary – Keri Swanson, Bee Cave Elementary, Lake Travis ISD
Secondary – Deirdre Doughty, Colorado River Collegiate Academy, Bastrop ISD
Elementary – Molly Harless, Lee Elementary, Abilene ISD
Secondary – Kathy Ellison, Abilene High School, Abilene ISD
Elementary – Stacy Fischer, Bowie Elementary, San Angelo ISD
Secondary – Kami Dodds, Brady High School, Brady ISD (finalist)
Elementary – Deonia Campbell, Sundown Lane Elementary, Canyon ISD
Secondary – Jennifer Garner, River Road High School, River Road ISD (finalist)
Elementary – Sara Simpson, Oak Ridge Elementary, Frenship ISD
Secondary – Cathrine McMahan, Levelland Middle School, Levelland ISD
Elementary – Jane Bledsoe, Bush Elementary, Midland ISD
Secondary – Danielle Castle, Lee Senior High School, Midland ISD
Elementary – Perla Lozoya, Dr. Sue Shook Elementary, Socorro ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Michelle Sandoval, Parkland Middle School, Ysleta ISD (finalist)
Elementary – Angie D’Ambrosio, Redland Oaks Elementary, North East ISD
Secondary – Belinda Medellin, CAST Tech High School, San Antonio ISD
The six finalists will be invited to Austin in October 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 October 25 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.