The Texas Association of School Administrators recently announced the six finalists (three elementary and three secondary) in the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year program, including a member of TCTA. They were selected from the 40 regional winners.

The six finalists will be invited to Austin in September for interviews. A panel of judges 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 Sept. 15 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year also will be recognized.

Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year finalists

Amy Hooten, Thomas Justiss Elementary School, Paris ISD — “It is important for teachers to first build relationships with their students and families,” said Hooten, who has taught at Justiss Elementary in Paris ISD for her entire 23-year career. “Only then can we provide the experiences, vocabulary enrichment, language and academic skills students need to rise up and successfully participate with other types of society members while still valuing their own. It is essential that students be taught how to make goals, make plans to achieve their goals, and broaden their world outside their immediate vicinity and situation.” Hooten teaches second-grade English language arts and has been a TCTA member since 1994.

Andrea Lucas, Lamar Elementary School, San Antonio ISD — “When a school builds a culture of learning amongst the staff, teachers are more likely to open their doors, take risks, and see themselves as reflective practitioners,” said Lucas, who teaches fourth grade at Lamar Elementary in San Antonio ISD and is beginning her 14th year in the classroom. “I am lucky to be at such a school. We have worked to grow a shared vision and continuously learn together. We examine our teaching practices to find what works best for our students. Our morale is high and we feel we have a voice in our campus decisions. We learn and grow together. All teachers deserve to learn and grow in professional school cultures that take seriously their needs as adult learners.”

Marissa Torres, Blue Haze Elementary School, White Settlement ISD — “One of my goals as a teacher has always been to create lifelong learners who will contribute positively to their community,” said Torres, who teaches third grade at Blue Haze Elementary in White Settlement ISD. “I don’t want to just help students arrive at the ‘right answer’ in my classroom. I want to help guide them to become independent problem solvers who can apply their skills and knowledge beyond the classroom. Starting on the first day of school, I strive to connect everything we do to the real world and to emphasize the importance of contributing positively to both our classroom community and their outside communities.” Torres has 10 years of experience in education.

Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year finalists

Tara Bordeaux, Lanier High School, Austin ISD — “I know first-hand how hard life can be on a young heart, and I know how easy it is to give up. I know, because I did, and I dropped out of high school,” said Bordeaux. “My hope is that as a teacher, I can inspire my students to persevere, and succeed in ways I never could. I believe that every student deserves the opportunity to learn from teachers who truly care about the impact they are making in a child’s life. I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to give students the chance to chase their dreams and learn how to believe in themselves even if the world gives them reasons to stop believing.” Bordeaux has taught media arts at Lanier High School in Austin ISD since 2013. Prior to that, she spent 10 years working in television and film production in Los Angeles.

Andrea Garza, United South High School, United ISD — “I believe in the power of education and the potential of every student,” said Garza, who teaches world history and serves as the social studies department chair at United South High School in United ISD in Laredo. “Like many educators, I want to motivate. I want to impact and reach students in a way that encourages a lifelong love for learning. I want my students to appreciate the complexity of the human experience to develop a global perspective, to view difference with empathy and compassion, and to intrinsically strive for more knowledge. These skills are fundamental to becoming civic leaders and competent civic actors. These skills are necessary to change the world.” She has taught since 2006.

Gary Strickland, Coleman High School, Coleman ISD — “Our role as educators is more complex now than ever,” said Strickland, who teaches physics, scientific research and design, biology, and integrated physics and chemistry at Coleman High School in Coleman ISD. “Yes, we must be content experts, but we must understand that content knowledge is ubiquitous; a student doesn’t need a teacher to learn facts. They do need us, however, to help them process their new knowledge. They need a guide and a mentor to help them create new mental models and synthesize this new information.” Strickland became a teacher in 2002, after 20 years of self-employment in the agriculture and pest control industries.

2018 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year

This year's regional winners include seven TCTA members, as noted below.

Region 1

  • Julia Otken, Mims Elementary School, Mission CISD
  • Andrea Garza, United South High School, United ISD (Finalist)

Region 2

  • Jack Marley, Flour Bluff Intermediate School, Flour Bluff ISD
  • Pragati Bannerjee, Roy Miller High School, Corpus Christi ISD

Region 3

  • Laura Prihoda, Hutchins Elementary School, El Campo ISD
  • Xochitl Gonzalez, Harold Cade Middle School, Victoria ISD

Region 4

  • Terri Armendariz, Carpenter Elementary School, Deer Park ISD
  • Brenda Varvoutis, South Houston High School, Pasadena ISD

Region 5

  • Carol Post, Oak Forest Elementary School, Vidor ISD
  • Alexia King, Lumberton Middle School, Lumberton ISD

Region 6

  • Natashia Foglesong, Willie E. Williams Elementary School, Magnolia ISD, a first-time TCTA member.
  • Sheridan Clinkscales, College Station High School, College Station ISD

Region 7

  • Rachel George, William B. Travis Elementary School, Marshall ISD
  • Kathleen Brown, Palestine High School, Palestine ISD, a TCTA member since 1988.

Region 8

  • Amy Hooten, Thomas Justiss Elementary School, Paris ISD (Finalist), a TCTA member since 1994.
  • Michael Rhodes, Paris High School, Paris ISD

Region 9

  • Breann Spiey, Crestview Elementary School, Graham ISD
  • Michelle Lowrey, Graham High School, Graham ISD

Region 10

  • Whitney Sellars, Naomi Press Elementary School, McKinney ISD
  • Melody Davis, Inspired Vision Secondary School, A+ Charter Schools, Inc.

Region 11

  • Marissa Torres, Blue Haze Elementary School, White Settlement ISD (Finalist)
  • Amanda McKnight, Briarhill Middle School, Lewisville ISD

Region 12

  • Deborah DeGraff, Bell's Hill Elementary School, Waco ISD
  • Craig Sullivan, Belton High School, Belton ISD

Region 13

  • Allie Duffy, Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School, Round Rock ISD
  • Tara Bordeaux, Lanier High School, Austin ISD (Finalist)

Region 14

  • Carolyn Mullican, East Ridge Elementary School, Sweetwater ISD, a TCTA member since 1990.
  • Monica Rogers, Sweetwater Middle School, Sweetwater ISD, a TCTA member since 2016.

Region 15

  • Leslie Anaya, Coggin Intermediate School, Brownwood ISD, a TCTA member since 2016.
  • Gary Strickland, Coleman High School, Coleman ISD (Finalist)

Region 16

  • Alicia Lohberger, Lakeview Elementary School, Canyon ISD
  • Amanda Head, Caprock High School, Amarillo ISD

Region 17

  • Kelly Baum, Charles L. Waters Elementary School, Lubbock ISD
  • Rachel Wheeler, Brownfield Middle School, Brownfield ISD, a TCTA member since 2015.

Region 18

  • Edith Loya, Pecos Kindergarten, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD
  • Gena Lancaster, Alpine High School, Alpine ISD

Region 19

  • Christina Castaños, Purple Heart Elementary School, Socorro ISD
  • Luis C. Luna, Clint Junior High School, Clint ISD

Region 20

  • Andrea Lucas, Lamar Elementary School, San Antonio ISD (Finalist)
  • Amanda White, Somerset Junior High School, Somerset ISD

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. To learn more, click here.