The Houston Independent School District on Friday paid tribute to the district’s top elementary and secondary teachers of the year during the fifth annual Educators of the Year banquet, which honors exceptional teachers and principals.
Hillary Smith, a fifth-grade reading teacher at DeAnda Elementary School, was named HISD Elementary Teacher of the Year, while Christina Carter-Woods, a seventh-grade reading teacher at Pershing Middle School, was named HISD Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Smith and Carter-Woods each received a $3,500 cash award and an engraved plaque. They also will advance to the state’s regional Teacher of the Year competition.
Smith, who is in her fourth year of teaching, attributes her success in the classroom to keeping it simple.
“My personal teaching style is based on the belief that children are more likely to excel in school if they truly love to read and that teachers can foster that interest with meaningful exposure to authentic texts,” Smith wrote in her award application. “My goal is for my students to enter their 6th grade reading classrooms with excitement and enthusiasm. I hope they will tell their teacher and their classmates about their favorite books and favorite authors. I hope they will continue to grow and develop as life-long learners.”
Carter-Woods, who has been an educator for 12 years, believes that showing love to her students by providing them with a nurturing and positive learning environment has been critical to her success.
“While not stated in my duties as a teacher, I naturally find beauty, individuality and purpose in all of the scholars I teach,” Carter-Woods wrote in her award application. “In order to teach them, I must be willing to know their interests, their weaknesses, their strengths, where they see themselves, what drives them and who their families are, so that I am able to tap into their potential, creating an ongoing thirst for knowledge.”
Nearly 2,000 teachers from all 283 HISD schools attended the sold-out event sponsored by Cigna Health insurance. HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams thanked the teachers for being superheroes in HISD schools and classrooms.
“You make sacrifices to benefit your students, you never give up on them, you are an inspiring role model, and you are changing the world, one child at a time,” Adams said. “Thank you for always putting your students first, for dedicating your lives to education, and for committing yourselves to HISD.”
During the event, the district also honored its 2016 Beginning Teachers of the Year with a $3,500 cash award. The winners are Morgan Greco of Herod Elementary School, Kapreece M. Smith of Dowling Middle School, and Elisa Michelle Infante of Lamar High School. Other winners include Fondren Elementary School’s Tracy W. Singleton, who was presented with a $1,000 cash prize as part of the Emily Scott Evans Award, which is given to a third-grade teacher known for encouraging students to be excited about learning and to respect peers and adults.
“Your investment of time and energy in our children is the single most important factor in their success,” HISD Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt told educators at the event. “You are on the front lines each and every day. You are not only teachers and principals, but also often a shoulder to cry on, a stand-in parental figure, and your students’ No. 1 fan and cheerleader.”
For the second year in a row, two teachers were honored with the Fan Favorite Award, which allows HISD staff, students, and alumni to vote for their favorite campus-based teacher of the year. More than 85,000 votes were submitted. Jillean Herrera of De Zavala Elementary School received this year’s Fan Favorite Award for elementary teachers while ShaRell Martin of Fleming Middle School received the Fan Favorite Award for secondary teachers.
Both elementary and secondary principals of the year, which were announced in February, also were recognized at the event. Bush Elementary School Principal Theresa Rose was named HISD’s Elementary Principal of the Year, and Lanier Principal Felicia Adams was selected as HISD’s Secondary Principal of the Year.