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TASA has announced that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the 2021 Texas Teacher of the Year program.

Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year Finalists

Eric Hale, David G. Burnet Elementary School, Dallas ISD
“My students and parents have survived a category F-3 tornado and are presently living in a pandemic. It is essential that I make sure they know I am here for them and value their educational development,” said Hale, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at David G. Burnet Elementary School in Dallas ISD. “So, my 2020-2021 school year started April 17, the moment Gov. Abbott closed schools [to in-person instruction] for the remainder of the academic year. I have learned that regardless of this pandemic, whether in a classroom or not, I can find innovative ways to deliver learning resources to my students in pursuit of continued greatness.”

Alexis Miller, Southridge Elementary School, Lewisville ISD
“In my classroom, I motivate my scholars to reach their highest potential through goal-setting. As their teacher, it is important for me to guide them to understand that a setback or even failure can lead to discovering grit,” said Miller, the third-grade team lead teacher at Southridge Elementary in Lewisville ISD. “Fostering grit in education has a direct impact on our community because students who value grit will likely grow to take risks leading to academic success, entrepreneurship, and civic development. Grit is instrumental in everyday situations and I feel privileged to help my scholars discover how powerful they are.”

Lisa Barry, Woodridge Elementary School, Alamo Heights ISD
“Getting children involved in issues they are interested in is a great way to teach beyond the classroom. As a reading, writing and social studies teacher, I am privileged to be able to teach in a cross-curricular manner.” said Barry, who teaches fifth-grade at Woodridge Elementary School in Alamo Heights ISD in San Antonio. “While I was working with colleagues to make Holocaust education mandatory in the state of Texas, I shared each step of success with my students, allowing them to watch the Senate and House votes, my testimony before the Senate Education Committee, and the governor’s signing the bill into law. They learned firsthand how a bill becomes a law.”

Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalists

Ida Cisneros, Frenship Middle School, Frenship ISD
“I have come to believe that I am teaching during a revolutionary time in history. I have heard countless times that there is a chance many of my students will have jobs that do not even exist yet, and they will change jobs multiple times during their lifetimes,” said Cisneros, who teaches sixth-grade pre-AP/gifted and talented English/language arts and reading at Frenship Middle School in Frenship ISD. “Even though I teach my students to write essays and analyze literature, I must also teach them to be complex thinkers, innovators, creators and team players.”

Anthony Lopez-Waste, Canutillo High School, Canutillo ISD
“As a history teacher, I have the opportunity to open the eyes of my students to a world that most of them have never seen. My message to the kids each year is to dream big. Get out and see just how wonderful our world truly is,” said Lopez-Waste, who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years prior to becoming a teacher. “I refer quite a bit to my own experiences. Many of the experiences that I am able to use as examples come from my military experience and from the fact that the Army gave me the opportunity to travel the world. The kids are always interested in my perspective, especially when they realize that I’ve been to most of the places we are covering. I think it excites them to know that their history teacher can actually tell them about places because I’ve been there, not because it’s in a book.”

Adriana Abundis, Lanier High School, San Antonio ISD
“Education is a cultural action. I believe that, at its core, education is driven by community wisdom and authentic real-world connections; and it is because of this that I vehemently enjoy binding learning with community,” said Abundis, who teaches dual language mathematics and serves as an instructional team leader at Lanier High School in San Antonio ISD. “I have led four community murals in my district. Each mural was created with several community members, leaders and family. High school students were paired up with middle school students for mentoring and tutoring, and entire community monuments were recreated by students. These artifacts and murals continue to be revered by the community and social justice organizations.”

“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 29, 2020, 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.

2021 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year

Region 1
Elementary – Carlina Capelo-Pichardo, Narciso G. Cavazos Elementary School, La Joya ISD
Secondary – Michele Galvan, B.L. Gray Junior High School, Sharyland ISD

Region 2
Elementary – Roxie Yebra, T.M. Clark Elementary School, Gregory Portland ISD
Secondary – Allison Wilburn, The Joe Barnhart Academy, Beeville ISD

Region 3
Elementary – Tammy Reyes, Vickers Elementary School, Victoria ISD
Secondary – Cheryl Clark, Victoria West High School, Victoria ISD

Region 4
Elementary – Yvonne Lopez Taylor, Carter Academy, Aldine ISD
Secondary – Janet Menzie, Clements High School, Fort Bend ISD

Region 5
Elementary – Skylar Slaughter, Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams Elementary School, Port Arthur ISD
Secondary – Bill Williamson, C.O. Wilson Middle School, Nederland ISD

Region 6
Elementary – Cindy Siple, Montgomery Elementary School, Montgomery ISD
Secondary – Hanna Hollohazy, Infinity Early College High School, New Caney ISD

Region 7
Elementary – Sarah Nixon, Hallsville North Elementary School, Hallsville ISD
Secondary – Johna Tritt, Kilgore High School, Kilgore ISD

Region 8
Elementary – Christy McCarter, Spring Lake Park Elementary School, Texarkana ISD
Secondary – Shelley Bloomer, Harts Bluff Elementary/Middle School, Harts Bluff ISD

Region 9
Elementary – Hayley Bishop, Nocona Elementary School, Nocona ISD
Secondary – Sarah Kidd, Graham High School, Graham ISD

Region 10
Elementary – Eric Hale, David G. Burnet Elementary School, Dallas ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Helen Arceneaux, Liberty Junior High School, Richardson ISD

Region 11
Elementary – Alexis Miller, Southridge Elementary School, Lewisville ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Lisa Day, Northwest High School, Northwest ISD

Region 12
Elementary – Laurie Sims, Kennedy-Powell Elementary School, Temple ISD
Secondary – Misty Thomas, Copperas Cove High School, Copperas Cove ISD

Region 13
Elementary – Caitlin Lowery, Lagos Elementary School, Manor ISD
Secondary – Paul Davies, Manor New Tech Middle School, Manor ISD

Region 14
Elementary – Chelsea Rico, Lee Elementary School, Abilene ISD
Secondary – Jimmy Pogue, Abilene Cooper High School, Abilene ISD

Region 15
Elementary – Idalia Castellanos, Dr. Lonnie Green Elementary School, San Felipe Del Rio CISD
Secondary – Allison Peterson, Lake View High School, San Angelo ISD

Region 16
Elementary – Lori Garrett, Cactus Elementary School, Dumas ISD
Secondary – Katherine George, Spearman High School, Spearman ISD

Region 17
Elementary – Haley Kirk, Westwind Elementary School, Frenship ISD
Secondary – Ida Cisneros, Frenship Middle School, Frenship ISD (finalist)

Region 18
Elementary – Maureen Gapac, Austin Elementary School, Pecos Barstow Toyah ISD
Secondary – Amanda Bolanos, Alpine Middle School, Alpine ISD

Region 19
Elementary – Pedro Gurrola, Vista Del Sol Elementary School, Socorro ISD
Secondary – Anthony Lopez-Waste, Canutillo High School, Canutillo ISD (finalist)

Region 20
Elementary – Lisa Barry, Woodridge Elementary School, Alamo Heights ISD (finalist)
Secondary – Adriana Abundis, Lanier High School, San Antonio ISD (finalist)

The six finalists will be interviewed September 12, 2020, by 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 during the virtual TASA|TASB Convention, September 30, 2020.

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.

The Texas Teacher of the Year program operates with financial support and in-kind contributions from the following:

  • Diamond Sponsors: Edgenuity, H-E-B, Raise Your Hand Texas, TASA
  • Platinum Sponsors: Google for Education, Texas Association of School Boards (TASB)
  • Gold Sponsors: ClassLink, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA)
  • Silver Sponsors: Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE); Texas AFT; 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 PTA; Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA)