ROCKETS: Community Clutch City Foundation

2009-10 Teacher of the Game Presented by Devon Energy Winners

Roshanda Johnson – Harris Academy – Aldine ISD

4th Grade Teacher – All subjects
Nominated by Aeja Williams – Student

I come to school doubting myself and Ms. Johnson is one the most positive persons I know that tells me I can do it.  Ms. Johnson is kind of like a second mom, but she does not live with me.  When I’m at school and I don’t understand a problem and everyone around me is saying “you’re dumb & stupid”, she is the only one that says “I believe in you and if you try just a little bit harder, you will work this math problem like a mastermind.  She also told me don’t let ignorance determine your future.  Let your heart and mind guide you to and through the right path.

Victor Rodriguez – Miller Intermediate – Alief ISD

5th Grade Teacher – Bilingual Math & Reading/Intervention Teacher
Nominated by Kathryn Todd – Co-worker

Mr. Rodriguez is an exceptional teacher who cares about his students!  He inspires them each and everyday with his positive attitude, sense of fairness and the good ole fashioned “Whatever It Takes” motto.  Mr. Rodriquez is encouraging to all learners, and posted on his wall are the promises he makes to his students:  “I promise to…Read to you, Read with you, Write with you, Talk with you, Solve problems with you, Perform word study with you.  He is the ultimate professional, and he believes in the importance of making data-driven decisions.  This is one way he connects to kids successfully with a personal touch and taps into the unique needs of individual students.

Jamie Anderson – Cypress Springs High School – Cy Fair ISD

9th Grade Teacher – English
Nominated by Marti Iatridis – Teacher & Co-worker

I first met Ms. Anderson three years ago when Cypress Springs was conducting TAKS “Blitz” for the students.  This is a special Saturday tutoring session we hold prior to the commencement of TAKS testing.  Jamie Anderson was certainly the right person to lead the day.  Imagine my surprise as I watched Ms. Anderson jump on the teacher’s desk.  This educator was so energized and excited about the upcoming exam that before long she actually had those students laughing, jumping, and cheering about taking the TAKS test!  I was amazed at her energy and uproarious talent for inspiring those students.  We have been designated as a “Title One” school which is a sign of low-income and often low-achieving students.  It isn’t an easy task to teach some of our kids, but with the enthusiasm that Ms. Anderson brings to the classroom, she inspires our students to reach for success.

Sarah Erchinger – Dunbar Middle School – Dickinson ISD

6th Grade Teacher – Academic Coach
Nominated by Laura Gokey – Daughter

When I was younger, my mother would come home and talk about her “kids” at school.  She would talk about how Katie finally mastered her multiplication facts, how Jose got a 100 on his fractions homework, and how proud she was that Jennifer was able to work well in a group today.  I grew up with a mother who not only loved her job, but loved each one of her students as well.  What I admire most about my mother as a teacher is she always rooted for the students who weren’t the most popular, the smartest, or the wealthiest.  Her favorite students were the ones who needed extra attention in their classes, the ones who didn’t have a great home life, and the ones who other teachers called “behavior problems.”  She knew that what they needed the most was someone who cared about them.  Her beliefs have been passed down to me and I hope that I will be able to make a difference in my student’s life like she has for hers.

Antonio Castillo – Ridgegate Elementary – Fort Bend ISD

2nd Grade Teacher
Nominated by Martha Lawrence – Former Co-worker

He uses many different techniques to make sure he inspires and reaches each of his students.  This year he developed a program that involves all subject matter.  His class is sending stuffed animals around the world.  Each animal is accompanied by a memory card and a request for pictures and information on the places he travels to.  As these are returned, the class learns about the culture of others.  They use map skills and math to discover location and how far the animal traveled.  They discuss weather in the location and compare it to their own weather.  Most of Mr. Castillo’s students have a very limited access to other places.  By using his animals, he is opening the door to the world to these children and making far away places real.  His students are excited about learning and being successful in learning some very hard concepts.

Mary Dignazio – Cornerstone Elementary – Fort Bend ISD

5th Grade Teacher – ELA/Social Studies
Nominated by various students

I like Ms. Dignazio because she is an awesome teacher.  Ms. Dignazio has a very good attitude to teach us new thing in fun and exciting ways.  Here are some ways Ms. Dignazio helps us learn.  One thing we do is Academic Basketball, since Ms. Dignazio is a fan of the NBA and Rockets.  My teacher puts up a problem and two students solve it and the first student with the right answer gets a point and gets to shoot a basket.  The team with the most points wins.  She gives us Reading Response every night so we can improve on our reading.  Reading Response is when you read for 30 minutes and write a 3-5 paragraph about what you read.  When we finish class assignments, she gives us a list of educational websites that help improve different skills and also help us feel comfortable on the computers.  She is a very creative and inspiring teacher.

Kay Slack-Beard – Dulles High School – Fort Bend ISD

9th – 12th Grade Teacher – Health and Leadership Group (PALS)
Nominated by Barry Beard – Husband

Kay Slack-Beard is a remarkable teacher, mentor, parent, community volunteer and nationally recognized woman who has and continues to make a difference in the lives of thousands of students and citizens since she joined the faculty of John Foster Dulles High School in 1981.  The value of volunteerism she had taught to so many students and adults alike will predictably be multiplied exponentially through generations to come.  Our students are proud of the three Habitat for Humanity houses they have totally funded and built from the slab up through her guidance, counsel and perseverance.  Kay Slack-Beard is a singular individual whose altruistic nature and positive attitude make her the very best role model for our youth.  Her class is the most important class they take all day, because she teaches them “life skills”, how to make it in the real world.  She believes her       mission is to share her vision for a positive destiny for all adolescents.

Erin Chavez – Peck Elementary – Houston ISD

Kindergarten Teacher – Dual Languages
Nominated by Mr. Mario Cantu – Assistant Principal

The teacher reaches every student with expectations of higher-level thinking, interactive learning, and dedicated attention to individual learning styles.  Students are excited to attend classes and recount their positive, productive learning experiences when they get home at night.  This is Mrs. Chavez’s classroom on a daily basis, filled with discussions and inquiry driven exploration.  Her passion and adherence to her belief that every child deserves access to excellent and innovative educational experiences has also driven her to assume several campus leadership roles.  Each role places her in a position to assist other teachers to grow as educators, in the best interest of the students.  Mrs. Chavez supports the struggles that the students and families face while learning a second language.  Through working side by side with the families early in the educational process, students benefit from dedicated studies, and will, in time, become successful, marketable professionals in the global job market.  No child will ever be left behind in her class and no child will be shown less than extraordinary learning opportunities.  Every child who spends time in Mrs. Chavez’s classroom leaves with a memorable learning experience and leaves wanting more.

Kay York – Ed White Elementary – Houston ISD

Pre-K – 5th Grade – Speech Pathologist
Nominated by Mr. & Mrs. Merrill – Parents of student

As parents and designers of educational facilities, we have known hundreds of Houston teachers, administrators, and educators.  Kay stands out in the crowd due to her creativity and courage to “do the right thing.”  Kay believes in teaching the person, not the subject.  She teaches life skills and a love for learning.  Kay has an inquisitive mind and a passion to share her knowledge; through example, she teaches her students to be life-long learners.  Kay’s teaching style doesn’t stop at the school exit doors.  She forms long lasting relationships with students and their families.  We first met Kay in 1995, when she served as our son’s speech pathologist at our neighborhood elementary school.  At the time, our son was in academic and developmental trouble.  He had delayed speech skills, poor enunciation, and appeared to have processing difficulties.  When teachers, pediatricians, administrators, and diagnosticians refused to acknowledge these suspected disabilities, Ms. York courageously gave us advice, support, and used her Texas assertiveness to get our son the services he deserved.  Within a year, our son’s school was recognized as one of the district’s best schools in diagnosing early childhood learning disabilities.  Kay’s actions and commitment to do the “right thing” are heroic.

Margaret Waldon – Eleanor Tinsley Elementary – Houston ISD

3rd & 4th Grade
Nominated by Patsy Finch – Principal

Margaret worked as a teacher under my supervision, in three different schools, while I served as an HISD Principal for 25 years.  Margaret instills hope and inspires her students.  She has a “can do” attitude and never fails to instill this belief in her students.  Margaret is exceptional as she motivates, even the reluctant achievers to reach and go beyond what they expect of themselves.  It is this ability, limited to a few, to motivate students to extend their learning and knowledge and ultimately achieve greater success in school and life that distinguishes her from the many, many teachers with whom I have had the opportunity to work with.  I have seen Margaret take 36 students, moving from elementary to middle school, with test scores 2-3 years below the 5th grade when they entered the 6th grade.  By the end of the year, every student was able to reach grave level prior to passing to the 7th grade.  Margaret’s personal, professional skills put her in a class of her own.  She continues to inspire, teach and grow personally as she has recently completed her Master’s degree and is working on her Doctorate.  She works in the before and after school programs with reluctant learners helping each achieve his or her own potential.  She instills a strong belief system in her students where anything is possible.

Duranne Walker – James H. Law Elementary – Houston ISD

5th Grade – Science Teacher
Nominated by Joy Teed – Coworker and Friend

She is a role model for many of the at-risk students in her school.  All of her teaching comes from hands on learning experiences that she provides for her students.  She uses no textbooks.  In this way, all learners with different abilities are able to learn and be successful.  Her success is well documented through the high TAKS test scores her students earn.  She believes that each child can be successful, but more important she makes them believe that they can be successful.  For her, motivation is the key.  For her students, she is sometimes the only person they have who believes in them.  She motivates children in a meaningful way by finding out what is meaningful to them.  Ms. Walker’s teaching style is simple.  She believes that she is her students’ greatest resource.  Concepts are taught utilizing an inquiry-based method of teaching.  Pacing of instruction is aligned to the students’ abilities to learn.  It would not be unusual to find her using Oreo cookies to teach the phases of the moon.  (Ever notice that when you slide the top and bottom apart, the pieces look like the full and new moons?)  Every year she takes all the students to one of HISD’s Outdoor Education Centers (camp).  Ms. Walker has also been known to treat students to the restaurant of their choice to reward good grades.  Ms. Walker has taken students to Rockets’ games in the past and has used the experience as a teaching moment.  She seizes all the teaching moments she is given.

LeAnne Vandover – Schmalz Elementary – Katy ISD

Kindergarten – 5th Grade – Special Education
Nominated by Gail Hall – Coworker

Ms. VanDover demonstrates her love for teaching kindergarten – 5th grade students by teaching special education in a structured environment to help them meet their IEP Goals (Individualized Education Planning).  Ms. VanDover gives her students the love and attention they need by encouraging them to never give up.  She tells them to just keep trying and you will succeed.  She lets them know that quitters never finish the race.  She helps them to realize that students who stay in the race can be champions.  ……She helps students believe in themselves to reach IEP academic goals and benchmark objectives by finding new strategies to assist them in reaching academic excellence.  … … She has dedicated herself full time to the education profession and then goes home and meets the needs of her own special needs daughter when she leaves work after taking care of her special needs students all day long.  Ms. VanDover finds the strength to come to school early and stays late many days to make preparations to help her students be successful in the learning environment.  In addition to this, she has to tap into her reserve energy to provide nurturing care for her special needs daughter and provide for her family.  I admire Ms. VanDover for her strength and her courage to share her excellent professional educational talents and lover for teaching with her students on a daily basis and then go home and meet the special needs of her 19 year old special needs daughter and her other 5th grade daughter.  These are the reasons why I believe Ms. LeAnne VanDover should be standing in the middle of the Toyota Center receiving the Houston Rockets & Devon Energy Teacher of the Game Award.

Lisa Lucario – Wunderlich Intermediate – Klein ISD

8th Grade – AVID program & Communications
Nominated by Patricia Crittendon – Principal

Say that name at Wunderlich Intermediate School and you will hear compliments from students, teachers, and administrators about a teacher who inspires and leads students to achieve.  Her success reflects a commitment to keep students at the forefront of her teaching.  A visual indicator of Lisa’s making a difference is Wunderlich’s “No Place for Hate” mural.  It is a reminder that students who have come from many backgrounds have evolved into one school family.  Lisa and the No Place for Hate Club members led our campus to receive recognition last year from the Anti-Defamation League.  In the classroom, Lisa is that teacher she always wanted but never had.  As an AVID (a program to help students succeed in school and enter college) teacher for eighth grade students, she uses compassion, humor, empathy, and life experiences to connect with her students.  During the first three weeks of school, Lisa devotes lots of class time to building relationships.  Those relationships result in students trusting her and doing all sorts of difficult tasks.

Jimmy Santillan – Red Bluff Elementary – Pasadena ISD

4th Grade – Bilingual Teacher
Nominated by Ryan Pavone & Rebecca Garza – Assistant Principals

There is a side of Mr. Santillan that all of his students pas and present will certainly attest to.  Mr. Santillan is SUPER COMPETITIVE.  He meets all deadlines and makes sure as Team Leader for the fourth grade that all the other teachers meet theirs too.  By example is a way that he is able to teach his students that they are not common, average or just typical.  In his mind, every student is a winner and his job is to make them champions at everything they do.  Not such a bad teaching tool if one thinks about it.  The other side of his personality is his patience.  This is important for the students to see because sometimes Mr. Santillan may be the only adult male figure that they can go to.  They know he will be willing to take time for each student and this is one of the reasons he is so popular in the school.  Whether he is teaching his classroom, playing sports, coaching one of his own teams or just being a great dad to two future MVP sons he is one of the individuals that anyone and especially all of his co-workers here at Red Bluff Elementary are privileged to have as a friend.

Portia Oliphant-Smith – Westfield High School – Spring ISD

9th – 12th Grade – Criminal Justice
Nominated by Dr. Frederick Walker – Principal

Teachers have to realize, that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you are is Mrs. Portia Oliphant-Smith’s philosophy as she walks in her classroom every day and year after year reminding herself why she entered the profession of education.  This is her motivation to inspire her student’s everyday to be the best they can be.  Entering the classroom everyday, she reminds herself that it is about relationships, getting to know her students and demonstrating to them that she care about them and their future.  Every week she writes her lesson plans incorporating strategies that will allow her students to feel a sense of:  Safety, Love & Belonging, Freedom & Independence, Success, Fun & Enjoyment and Valued Purpose.  As a teacher, she capitalizes on her student’s natural curiosity and promotes an attitude of discovery through interactive activities.  She strongly believes that all teachers must be committed to their jobs, and look upon the students as if they were their sons and daughters and not give up on them…