8 TEACH­ERS ARE FI­NAL­ISTS FOR TOP HONOR

Round Rock’s sys­tem has 4 of the nom­i­nees; fi­nal­ists re­ceive checks.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa B. Taboada mtaboada@states­man.com

Eight Austin-area ed­u­ca­tors are fi­nal­ists in the 2017 H-E-B Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion awards. H-E-B is dol­ing out nearly $100,000 in awards to 40 fi­nal­ists across the state. The win­ners, in­clud­ing teach­ers in three cat­e­gories — Ris­ing Star, for those with less than 10 years of ex­pe­ri­ence; Lead­er­ship, for those with 10 to 20 years; and Life­time Achieve­ment, for those with 20 or more years of ex­pe­ri­ence — will be an­nounced in May.

The six teach­ers and two prin­ci­pals hail from three Cen­tral Texas school dis­tricts and one char­ter school, with four of them work­ing in Round Rock schools.

They were sur­prised at their schools with bal­loons and checks — $1,000 for teach­ers and $2,500 for

prin­ci­pals — as well as equal amounts for their cam­puses:

Jeni Bris­tol, prin­ci­pal of Hill­crest El­e­men­tary in the Del Valle district, has served as a prin­ci­pal for more than seven years and in her cur­rent po­si­tion for more than three years.

“In just 3.5 years, she has been able to mo­ti­vate and em­power a dis­cour­aged staff, build a team that joins her in ser­vice, draw in par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers as ac­tive plan­ning par­tic­i­pants, and im­ple­ment pos­i­tive be­hav­ior pro­grams for stu­dents that have com­pletely changed and en­hanced the culture of the cam­pus,” said Su­per­in­ten­dent Kelly Crook.

Do­cia Craft, a phys­i­cal and health teacher at Murchi­son El­e­men­tary in the Pflugerville district, has taught 24 years — 17 of those at the cam­pus.

“I am an ed­u­ca­tor be­cause I was for­tu­nate to have ex­pe­ri­enced the pos­i­tive ef­fects a distin­guished phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher can have on learn­ers,” Craft said. “Know­ing that do­ing what I love and lov­ing what I do has a di­rect im­pact on the health and well-be­ing of my stu­dents, fam­i­lies, staff and com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to fuel my per­sonal sense of ac­com­plish­ment.”

Emily Jensen, a math teacher at McNeil High School in the Round Rock district, has taught for 18 years, in­clud­ing 11 at McNeil.

“Many stu­dents see her

as a coun­selor more than a teacher,” said Prin­ci­pal Court­ney Acosta. “She has worked through per­sonal, fam­ily and school prob­lems and serves as a safe space for our kids to get ad­vice from an adult they trust.”

Denise John­son, a in­ter­ven­tion­ist teacher pro­vid­ing dys­lexia ser­vices at Black­land Prairie El­e­men­tary in the Round Rock district, has taught for 20 years — 10 of those at her cur­rent cam­pus.

“I was once your strug­gling reader and I know the shame and ridicule that comes along with that bat­tle,” John­son said. “I am so thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity I was given to work in in­ter­ven­tions and help strug­gling stu­dents all day . ... I would be lost with­out my stu­dents. This is my life and I feel I am mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in some­one’s life.”

Sarah Rabe, a math teacher at Pflugerville El­e­men­tary in the Pflugerville district, with all five of her years as a teacher at the school.

“Grow­ing up, schools were en­vi­ron­ments full of love, sup­port, com­pas­sion, pa­tient guid­ance and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that I still think of and mar­vel at,” Rabe said. “My child­hood was won­der­ful be­cause of the com­mu­nity I had to rely upon. I knew a ca­reer in public ser­vice would be a mean­ing­ful and ful­fill­ing cause. I wanted to be what my teach­ers and schools had been for me.”

Mark Rogers, a teacher at Merid­ian School, a char­ter in Round Rock, has taught seven years, with six at Merid­ian.

“Mark Rogers is a con­sis­tent force of in­no­va­tion on our fac­ulty and is one of our most pop­u­lar teach­ers due to his unswerv­ing com­mit­ment to stu­dent learn­ing,” said Prin­ci­pal Charles Ry­der. “Mr. Rogers is al­ways look­ing for real world ap­pli­ca­tions to bring math teaching home (and) ... is also seek­ing new hooks to in­ter­est stu­dents.”

Kari Teague, a science teacher at McNeil High School in the Round Rock district, has been an ed­u­ca­tor for 29 years, 17 of those years serv­ing at McNeil. “If any­one em­bod­ies the traits of a stu­dent-cen­tered teacher, it is her,” Acosta said. “I don’t be­lieve that ‘teaching’ is the right word for what she does in the class­room. She leads. And through her ex­am­ple of lead­ing stu­dents, they be­come lead­ers.”

Kirk Wrin­kle, prin­ci­pal of Pflugerville High School in the Pflugerville district, has been in ed­u­ca­tion for 36 years, with 12 of those years spent at the high school and nine in his cur­rent po­si­tion.

“Kirk has pro­vided a very pos­i­tive, stu­dent-fo­cused en­vi­ron­ment,” said Su­sanna Rus­sell, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sec­ondary schools. “He has been es­pe­cially in­stru­men­tal in suc­cess­fully im­ple­ment­ing the district’s vi­sion for de­vel­op­ing lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity in oth­ers. Sev­eral of our cur­rent sec­ondary prin­ci­pals and district lead­ers in Pflugerville ISD got their start as teach­ers and as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals un­der Kirk’s lead­er­ship.”

LAURA SKELDING / FOR AMERICANSTATESMAN

Mark Rogers (right), a teacher at Merid­ian School, a char­ter in Round Rock, is a fi­nal­ist for the 2017 H-E-B Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion awards. He has taught at the school for six years.

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