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Troup ISD Educator Named Finalist for Texas Teacher of the Year
Six Educators Named Finalists for 2019 Texas Teacher of the Year
AUSTIN – The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) announced today that six outstanding educators from across Texas have been chosen as finalists in the 2019 Texas Teacher of the Year program.
Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year 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.”
Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year finalists:
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
A panel of judges composed of representatives of Texas teacher associations and last year’s Texas Teacher of the Year finalists selected the finalists from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of the 20 Texas Education Service Center regions.
The 2019 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year are:
Region Elementary Teacher of the Year
Region Secondary Teacher of the Year
Rhonda Peña, Bryan Elementary School, Mission CISD (finalist)
Timothy Cantu, United High School, United ISD
Evalynn Sherrod, Flour Bluff Intermediate School, Flour Bluff ISD
Kristine Bundy, West Oso High School, West Oso ISD
Stacie Konvicka, Wharton Elementary School, Wharton ISD
Janet Johnson, Wharton High School, Wharton ISD
Jeanna Peña, Lamkin Elementary School, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
Holly Hartman, Memorial High School, Spring Branch ISD
Christy Cunningham, Bridge City Elementary School, Bridge City ISD
Terry Morris, Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD
Kristi Ballard, A.R. Turner Elementary School, Willis ISD
Jennifer Duffer, Montgomery High School, Montgomery ISD
Kylie Altier, Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary School, Nacogdoches ISD
Karyn Ard, Troup High School, Troup ISD (finalist)
Jennifer Arden, Como-Pickton Elementary School, Como-Pickton CISD
Tracey Campbell, Mount Pleasant Junior High School, Mount Pleasant ISD
Lexi Law, Ben Franklin Elementary School, Wichita Falls ISD
Heather Preston, Rider High School, Wichita Falls ISD
Craig Sandy, Richardson Heights Elementary School, Richardson ISD
Beth Poquette Drews, L.V. Stockard Middle School, Dallas ISD
Joe Parthemore, Cannon Elementary School, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (finalist)
Kyle Christensen, Bill R. Johnson CTE Center, Crowley ISD
Tanya Linex, Jose Antonio Navarro Elementary School, Corsicana ISD
Joseph Merlo, C.E. Ellison High School, Killeen ISD
Lauren Bain, Carl Schurz Elementary School, New Braunfels ISD
Megan Holden, Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD (finalist)
Kassidi Seaton, Sweetwater Intermediate School, Sweetwater ISD
Ashlei Adams, Merkel High School, Merkel ISD
Macy Smithson, Fort Concho Elementary School, San Angelo ISD
Adan Cortez III, Del Rio High School, San Felipe Del Rio CISD
Jan Stovall, Morningside Elementary School, Dumas ISD
Kimberly Johnson, Borger High School, Borger ISD
Tiffany Beeles, Upland Heights Elementary School, Frenship ISD
Kathy Appleton, Coronado High School, Lubbock ISD
Monica Soto, Alpine Elementary School, Alpine ISD
Ashlee Castro, Alpine Middle School, Alpine ISD
Anna M. Peden, Desert Hills Elementary School, Clint ISD
Eduardo Jose Hinojos, Americas High School, Socorro ISD
Andrea Greimel, Carvajal Early Childhood Center, San Antonio ISD (finalist)
Jeff Wheatcraft, Alamo Heights Junior School, Alamo Heights ISD (finalist)
The six finalists will be invited to Austin in September for interviews before a panel of judges composed of representatives of educational leadership associations, community and business leaders, a member of the State Board for Educator Certification, a member of the State Board of Education, and prior Texas Teachers of the Year.
The panel 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. 14 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year will also be recognized.
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. Learn more at
TASA is the professional association for Texas school administrators, providing networking and professional learning opportunities, legislative advocacy, and targeted communications to support the work of superintendents and other school leaders. TASA’s mission is to promote, provide and develop leaders who create and sustain student-centered schools and develop future-ready students.

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