Longtime TCTA member Karyn Ard of Troup ISD is among six finalists for the 2019 Texas Teacher of the Year award given by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

TASA announced the finalists on Aug. 20 — three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers — along with releasing the names of 40 educators chosen as 2019 Regional Teachers of the Year. That list includes Ard and nine other TCTA members.

“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.”

Secondary finalists

  • Karyn Ard, Troup High School, Troup ISD: “I believe that students should be given tools to allow them to think and solve problems for themselves,” Ard said. “Education is more than memorizing; it is understanding what has been taught and being able to apply that knowledge to the world around us. I believe that we should encourage our students to be innovative, by constantly working to develop activities that are unique and not ‘cookie cutter’ in nature, because those require them to only have a basic grasp of the material in order to get a good grade. It is vital to create a culture in which students learn to be active and engaged learners who question information and search for deeper meaning not only in lessons, but also on their own.” Ard teaches biology at Troup High School, where she has taught for the past nine years of her 22-year career in education. She has been a TCTA member since 1996.
  • Megan Holden, Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD: Currently an English II and AP art history teacher, Holden has taught at LTHS for the past 20 years of her 21-year career in education. “Over the years, I have found how important it is for students to know that someone sees or hears them,” she said. “When I find out that students are going through hardship, I find the time to speak to them privately. I ask them to tell me what’s going on, and I offer my support. Sometimes that looks like giving them a few extra days to work on a project, sometimes it means finding a kid a pair of glasses, and sometimes it is as simple as sending them to the restroom to get themselves together after a good cry.” Holden founded LTHS’s “Fight Club,” an organization that helps teachers support students in crisis, and the “Cavalier Lounge,” a community-supported resource pantry that provides necessities for students in crisis.
  • Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD: A teacher for the past 12 years, he created the STEM program at Alamo Heights Junior School, where he has taught since 2012. “Over the past four years, I have worked collaboratively with other teachers and the administration to craft a program that has enhanced the learning opportunities of our students while changing the school’s culture, especially regarding young women in STEM fields,” Wheatcraft said. “Originally, we designed the course to feed into our high school rocketry program. But in three years, the STEM class has grown both figuratively and literally beyond the confines of the classroom we occupy. The majority of lessons are real-world problems with no definitive solution. I want students to know that there are still problems we are facing that need to be solved, and they have the skills to find solutions.” Wheatcraft is also the 2018 recipient of the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching and has twice been nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

Elementary finalists

  • Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD: “Our students are our future,” said Pena. “They deserve to have every ounce of our efforts to help guide them toward a productive life. By building a relationship with each of our students, we are also building the respect that they will have for us, for each other, and for themselves, and we are setting the path towards a successful life.” Peña has taught at Bryan Elementary for the past 25 years of her 28-year career in education. She has been chosen as Bryan ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year twice: in 2018 and 2012. In 2017, she received the prestigious H-E-B Excellence in Education Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Joe Parthemore, Cannon Elementary School, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD: “Nurturing children from the ground up is a foundational piece in seeing students thriving,” Parthemore said. “Students are like plants in that each one is different and have needs in order to survive and thrive in their environment. As teachers, our focus can tend to be on academics and teaching all the content standards within the time constraints of the school year. It's our responsibility to know our students beneath the surface and foster those needs because, if students do not have everything they need, they will never grow.” Parthemore has taught fifth grade at Cannon Elementary for the past two years. He serves as a district elementary science learning leader and curriculum collaborator and coaches his campus robotics team.
  • Andrea Greimel, Carvajal Early Childhood Center, San Antonio ISD: For the past nine years, Greimel has taught at Carvajal Early Childhood Center, where she is the bilingual lead teacher. She has also taught at SAISD’s Storm Academy and at Burleson Elementary in Edgewood ISD during her 30-year career in education. “For the young child, the most pertinent community is family,” Greimel said. “Our challenge is to engage not just the child, but the whole family, in the child's development. I do this by building an inclusive community of support where teachers and families learn together. I tell my students’ parents they hold a big key to their child's academic success. Love is the greatest motivator. If a parent reads to a child, a love of reading follows. If a parent writes, illustrates and reads family stories, the child will be empowered by love to make a mark on the world by reading and writing.”

Regional Teachers of the Year

Region 1
Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD (finalist)
Secondary: Timothy Cantu, United High School, United ISD, a TCTA member since 2014

Region 2
Evalynn Sherrod, Flour Bluff Intermediate School, Flour Bluff ISD
Secondary: Kristine Bundy, West Oso High School, West Oso ISD

Region 3
Elementary: Stacie Konvicka, Wharton Elementary School, Wharton ISD, a TCTA member since 2013
Secondary: Janet Johnson, Wharton High School, Wharton ISD

Region 4
Elementary: Jeanna Peña, Lamkin Elementary School, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
Secondary: Holly Hartman, Memorial High School, Spring Branch ISD

Region 5
Elementary: Christy Cunningham
, Bridge City Elementary School, Bridge City ISD, a TCTA member since 1999
Secondary: Terry Morris, Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD, a TCTA member since 2009

Region 6
 Kristi Ballard, A.R. Turner Elementary School, Willis ISD
Secondary: Jennifer Duffer, Montgomery High School, Montgomery ISD

Region 7
Kylie Altier, Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary School, Nacogdoches ISD
Secondary: Karyn Ard, Troup High School, Troup ISD (finalist), a TCTA member since 1996

Region 8
Jennifer Arden, Como-Pickton Elementary School, Como-Pickton CISD
Secondary: Tracey Campbell, Mount Pleasant Junior High School, Mount Pleasant ISD

Region 9
Elementary: Lexi Law, Ben Franklin Elementary School, Wichita Falls ISD, a TCTA member since 2016
Secondary: Heather Preston, Rider High School, Wichita Falls ISD

Region 10
 Craig Sandy, Richardson Heights Elementary School, Richardson ISD
Secondary: Beth Poquette Drews, L.V. Stockard Middle School, Dallas ISD

Region 11
 Joe Parthemore, Cannon Elementary School, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (finalist)
Secondary: Kyle Christensen, Bill R. Johnson CTE Center, Crowley ISD

Region 12
Tanya Linex, Jose Antonio Navarro Elementary School, Corsicana ISD
Secondary: Joseph Merlo, C.E. Ellison High School, Killeen ISD

Region 13
Lauren Bain, Carl Schurz Elementary School, New Braunfels ISD
Secondary: Megan Holden, Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD (finalist)

Region 14
 Kassidi Seaton, Sweetwater Intermediate School, Sweetwater ISD
Secondary: Ashlei Adams, Merkel High School, Merkel ISD, a TCTA member since 2010

Region 15
 Macy Smithson, Fort Concho Elementary School, San Angelo ISD, a TCTA member since 2008
Secondary: Adan Cortez III, Del Rio High School, San Felipe Del Rio CISD

Region 16
 Jan Stovall, Morningside Elementary School, Dumas ISD
Secondary: Kimberly Johnson, Borger High School, Borger ISD, a TCTA member since 2012

Region 17
 Tiffany Beeles, Upland Heights Elementary School, Frenship ISD
Secondary: Kathy Appleton, Coronado High School, Lubbock ISD

Region 18
 Monica Soto, Alpine Elementary School, Alpine ISD
Secondary: Ashlee Castro, Alpine Middle School, Alpine ISD, a TCTA member since 2014

Region 19
 Anna M. Peden, Desert Hills Elementary School, Clint ISD
Secondary: Eduardo Jose Hinojos, Americas High School, Socorro ISD

Region 20
Andrea Greimel, Carvajal Early Childhood Center, San Antonio ISD (finalist)
Secondary: Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD (finalist)

For more about the Teacher of the Year program, click here.