Teachers of the Year announced
By IRIS CAMPBELL
San Marcos CISD
Each year, Texas recognizes and rewards excellence in the teaching profession through the Texas Teacher of the Year (TOY) program. The project honors excellence in classroom education and showcases outstanding educators whose efforts and examples inspire students, colleagues and the community. San Marcos CISD looks forward to the annual recognition as a time to introduce local educators who are known for their commitment to students and their families. The top 10 teachers were chosen by their peers to represent their campuses, and they are:
• Rebeca Montalvo of Bowie Elementary
• Allison Verschueren of Crockett Elementary
• Pamela Smith of De Zavala Elementary
• Melba Smith of Hernandez Elementary
• Katherine Turner of Mendez Elementary
• Sara Torres of Travis Elementary
• Norma Ybarra of Goodnight Middle School
• Georgina Courtney of Miller Middle School
• Yolanda Diaz of San Marcos High School
• Emily Madeley of the Alternative Campus (Phoenix)
Rebeca Montalvo has been teaching Bilingual Kindergarten for five years, four of those at Bowie Elementary. She counts as her greatest achievement to “realize how my students have been able to succeed and how the happiness is reflected in their little faces when they can demonstrate to themselves what they have learned.” She believes that Kindergarten is the pillar that holds the educational building for each student.
Allison Verschueren of Crockett Elementary has been with San Marcos CISD since 2009 and with Crockett since 2010 where she has served as a Mentor Teacher and as the Special Education Team Leader. She feels that “it is my responsibility as a teacher to provide a learning environment where children are able to learn how to live cohesively, help one another and advocate for themselves and each other, as these are the foundations for life.” She says it is easy for teachers to get lost among the pressures of high stakes testing, timelines, grades, parents and administration… but the child must remain at the center.
De Zavala Elementary School’s Pamela Smith is a veteran educator of 31 years. She has been at her current site since 2010, currently teaching Kindergarten. Her grandmother Bertha Wiggins was once a Teacher of the Year for Texas, and Smith’s mother taught in military schools for 30 years. Smith purposely has no desk in her classroom, preferring teach on her feet or on the floor, often sitting on the floor to teach surrounded by her kids. She says, “The teacher needs to be in the world of the student in order to gain the perspective and trust of the student… Enter their world. Gain their trust.”
Melba Smith of Hernandez Elementary is another educator with 28 years of experience. She currently teaches a 2nd grade Bilingual class. She thinks students need a good climate in which to best grow, and has zones in her classroom for safety, learning, comfort, and creativity. Smith says, “I believe building good character, good citizenship, and nurturing confidence in their learning are important factors to succeed.
Katherine Turner has been teaching music for 24 years. She now oversees the Music Program for Mendez Elementary for grades K-5, in addition to writing grants to make it possible for her students to appreciate the arts at the symphony and at theatres. Telling her students that “performing for your community is a form of community service,” Turner has them out and about sharing their talents. She believes that music is a “safe place to make mistakes and learn to lead.”
Sara Torres has taught for 14 years, grades 1-5, and says she feels blessed “to be part of a place where magic happens every day.” She facilitates Family Engineering Nights, after school clubs, and spear-headed the construction of a campus garden with community support. Torres is currently busy raising money for a field trip this summer to the Grand Canyon. She says, “Students working in our classroom find meaning in the work they do through connections they are making in the real world — through hands on experiences.”
Goodnight Middle School’s Norma Ybarra has been setting the standard in teaching for 31 years. She believes in celebrating “little successes along the way,” and loves to contact parents with good news about their child. She sees herself as a cheerleader for public education, as it made the critical difference in her own life and in the lives of so many of her students through the years. Her fundamental practice “will always be treating the students with fairness and involving their parents to take an active role in their children’s future.”
Georgina Courtney of Miller Middle School has taught for four years, and quickly rose to the top. She thinks that the goal of education should be to create and inspire a generation of learners who can think critically, communicate with others, and collaborate well with a variety of people in the real world, not just pass a test. “It will be learning that is meaningful, and thus, will stay with the students long after they are no longer students,” Courtney says.
Yolanda Diaz of San Marcos High School has been teaching for 15 years, and she has been the Student Council advisor for 13 of those years. This opportunity has allowed her to help students develop leadership abilities and citizenship, and to help instill the importance of giving back to the campus and to the community. As much as anything, Diaz hopes to be a good role model for her students. She says, “Teachers teach because they have a passion and dedication for not only educating, but also a sincere interest in the success of our students.”
The Teacher of the Year from an Alternative Program is Emily Madeley of San Marcos High School’s Phoenix Program, were she’s taught for five years. She is a trained Behavior Therapist who believes “a student learns best by doing.” When working with students, Madeley is practical, and tries to promote their individuality and self-worth. It must be working, because she has a 99 percent graduation rate. She says that “education is a process that never ends,” and it’s crucial for the development of the individual and of society.
The 10 Teachers of the Year will be recognized by the San Marcos CISD School Board on Monday, April 21, at 6 p.m. A reception will be held in their honor beforehand, beginning at 5:15 until 6 p.m., in the Miller Middle School Cafeteria. Friends, family and co-workers are invited to attend the reception.
The San Marcos Education Foundation will be present to give tokens of appreciation to each teacher, and a community selection committee will announce who will be the Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year to advance to regionals.
The Mayor and City Council will recognize the Teachers of the Year on May 20 in the Council Chambers.