Each year, Humanities Texas presents awards recognizing and encouraging excellence in teaching the humanities in Texas schools. In 2013, a total of fifteen awards will be presented. Read below to learn more about five recent Outstanding Teaching Award recipients.

There is still time to nominate an exceptional teacher for our 2014 Outstanding Teaching Awards! Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for the awards through Wednesday, December 11. Winners will receive a $5,000 cash award and an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Visit our awards page to submit a nomination.

Rosa Salazar

On September 23, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar joined Eric Lupfer, director of grants and education at Humanities Texas, and Thomas R. Mitchell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M International University and former Humanities Texas board member, to present Rosa Salzar the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

Ms. Salazar teaches pre-AP world geography at United South High School, where she also serves as the social studies department chair.

In addition to developing innovative and hands-on classroom lessons, Ms. Salazar provides her students with learning opportunities beyond the classroom, including educational field trips and community projects.

This past year, Ms. Salazar created a Model United Nations Club at United South High School.

"Model UN serves as an exemplary platform to teach the humanities," said Ms. Salazar. "Besides the fact that my students were immersed in geography, history, current events, international relations, global studies, as well as English language arts skills, they were exposed to global viewpoints that would otherwise have remained foreign to them."

"Growing up, my parents only reached a second- and sixth-grade level of schooling," said U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar. "I was raised to work hard, and through my dedication to getting a good education, I worked my way from Laredo Community College to Georgetown University and UT.  The role of a good teacher is to tap the promise of all students. I congratulate Ms. Salazar for showing her students that they can all use education to improve their circumstances and that dedication to schooling is the key to realizing their full potential."

Martha MacFarland

U.S. Congressman John Carter and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette presented Martha MacFarland with an award on September 24 at the Meridian Charter School in Round Rock.

Mrs. MacFarland teaches English and serves as secondary team leader at Meridian Charter School, which opened its doors in August 2011.

"Martha MacFarland is an outstanding teacher not only because she is able to prepare students to think, read, write, and research, but also because she truly understands the importance of shaping our future leaders," said Rick Fernandez, head of school at Meridian.

Mrs. MacFarland's thematic, inquiry-based lessons require students to make connections across disciplines and engage in active learning. Whether they are participating in a Socratic seminar, blogging about literature, or researching global issues such as human rights, her students learn to think and write critically and analytically.

"It is essential that we emphasize the humanities in our schools because it allows for students to develop and grow as critical and creative thinkers," said Mrs. MacFarland.

"I am proud that we have amazing educators in District 31 who are truly committed to ensuring our children succeed," said U.S. Congressman John Carter. "Mrs. MacFarland is one of those shining stars, and her dedication to her students is evident. I congratulate Mrs. MacFarland on the achievement of receiving the 2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award."

Alexandra Gandy

On September 26, in front of an enthusiastic and spirited group of high school students, Matt Garcia, deputy district director for U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions joined Liz James, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas, to present Alex Gandy with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

"I'm delighted to congratulate Ms. Gandy on this prestigious award, which recognizes her invaluable work to enrich the lives of her students at Pearce High School," said U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions. "Her leadership and dedication play a pivotal role in preparing Richardson students for success in their future."

Ms. Gandy teaches English to sophomores at Pearce High School in Richardson, where she also serves as senior class sponsor, sits on the Faculty Advisory Committee, and writes English curriculum at the district level.

After her first two years of teaching at Pearce, Ms. Gandy led the development of a new freshman transition program, Starting Off Strong (S.O.S.). The weekly mentoring program allows seniors to mentor all incoming freshman to ensure a smooth transition into high school.

"Her leadership, guidance, and innovative ideas with S.O.S. have successfully improved the climate at Pearce High School and have strengthened and changed both the seniors and the freshmen involved," said Laura Taylor, a colleague of Ms. Gandy.

"I learned that being a teacher is more than working to improve the lives of just those students you are lucky enough to have in your own classes," said Ms. Gandy. "It's about working to ensure the benefit of every student in your building, making sure all of them can succeed as students in the classroom and people in the world."

Krystle Breden

U.S. Congressman Gene Green joined Humanities Texas Program Officer Lindsey Waldenberg on October 15 to present Krystle Breden with the Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching, which Humanities Texas presents to teachers who have completed three or fewer years of teaching.

"It is my pleasure to congratulate Krystle Breden," said Congressman Gene Green. "She has made it her mission to provide each one of her students with the support, encouragement, and resources they need to learn and succeed. Teachers like Krystle are an invaluable asset, and I applaud her for her dedication and ability to motivate her students to be passionate and active learners."

Ms. Breden teaches U.S. history and is social studies department chair at Houston's North Shore Senior High School, where she also serves on the instructional leadership team and as color guard director.

In 2011, both North Shore Senior High School and Galena Park ISD selected Ms. Breden as Rookie Teacher of the Year.

She also belongs to her school's "100% Club," since all of her students have passed the TAKS test—a remarkable accomplishment for an early-career teacher.

"The keys to Ms. Breden's many successes are her compassion, drive, and analytical mind," said Kimberly Martin, assistant principal at North Shore. "Her background is very different from her students, and yet she is able to truly connect with her students in a way that motivates them to achieve at the highest level."

Using music, art, and a variety of engaging activities, Ms. Breden has created a classroom that encourages students to connect with history on a personal level.

"As a teacher of the humanities, each and every day I strive to create a learning environment that inspires, motivates, and engages my students to become active participants in their own learning, as well as lifelong learners," said Ms. Breden.

Shannon Duffy

U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith and Melissa Huber, director of exhibitions and public programs at Humanities Texas, presented Shannon Duffy with her award on October 18 at OakRun Middle School in New Braunfels.

Ms. Duffy teaches eighth-grade language arts at OakRun Middle School, where she also serves as dance instructor and cheerleading coach.

Since 2007 Ms. Duffy has been a trainer in the Texas Adolescent Literacy and Writing Academies, which offer middle school teachers the opportunity to share effective teaching strategies.

"Ms. Duffy serves as a role model for both teachers and students in our district in terms of her positive attitude and imaginative leadership," said David Simmons, principal at OakRun Middle School.

"My classroom is student-centered and student-driven," said Ms. Duffy. "I believe that my students should spend more time reading, writing, thinking, engaging, debating, and discussing than they should spend listening to me. I see myself as a guide and facilitator for their journeys, rather than the only expert in the room."

Ms. Duffy's students read and analyze poetry, perform at Shakespeare in the Park, and examine literature of the Holocaust. She encourages her students not only to develop a love of language and literature, but also to create their own original work.

Want to nominate an outstanding teacher in your community for one of our Outstanding Teaching Awards? Visit the awards page to view a full list of 2013 recipients or to submit an online nomination. Visit the past awards page for a list of all recipients from 2012 and previous years.

Left to right: U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar; Principal Adriana Ramirez of Laredo's United South High School (USHS); Humanities Texas Director of Grants and Education Eric Lupfer; 2013 teaching award recipient Rosa Salazar of USHS; USHS teacher Jose Rios; and Thomas R. Mitchell, dean of Texas A&M International University's College of Arts and Sciences and former Humanities Texas board member. Photo courtesy of United ISD.
Left to right: State Board of Education Member Tom Maynard; U.S. Congressman John Carter; 2013 teaching award recipient Martha MacFarland of Round Rock's Meridian Charter School; Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette; and students Kyle Jones, Gabrielle Lewis, and Bethany Dieringer. Photo by Liz James.
From left to right: Gabrielle Lewis, Martha MacFarland, Bethany Dieringer, Rep. John Carter, and Kyle Jones.
Left to right: Deputy District Director for U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions Matt Garcia,  2013 teaching award recipient Alexandra Gandy, Humanities Texas Coordinator of Educational Programs Liz James, and J. J. Pearce High School Principal Beverly Vance.
Pearce High School assistant principals Chakosha Powell (left) and Donna Anthony congratulate Alexandra Gandry upon receiving a Humanities Texas teaching award.
Alexandra Gandry reenacts her first day of teaching and explains how it transformed her teaching philosophy.
Left to right: Dr. Angi Williams, superintendent of schools; Wilfred J. Broussard, Jr., Board of Trustees vice president; Krystle Breden, 2013 teaching award recipient; June Harris, Board of Trustees member; Gene Green, U.S. congressman; Joe Stephens, Board of Trustees member; and Lindsey Waldenberg, Humanities Texas program officer. Photo by Jonathan Frey.
Left to right: Rep. Gene Green, Krystle Breden, and Lindsey Waldenberg. Photo by Jonathan Frey.
From left to right: Humanities Texas Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs Melissa Huber, Superintendent Randy Moczygemba, 2013 teaching award recipient Shannon Duffy, U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith, Humanities Texas Board Member John Kerr, and OakRun Middle School Principal David Simmons. Photo by Rebecca Villarreal.
Rep. Lamar Smith and Shannon Duffy. Photo by Rebecca Villarreal.