Humanities Texas is still accepting nominations for our Outstanding Teaching Awards! If you know of an exceptional humanities teacher in your community, nominate him or her between now and December 12, 2012. Winners will receive a $5,000 cash award and an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials.

Liz James, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas, presented Nancy Cooper of Veribest Independent School District with an award during Veribest's homecoming football game on September 21, 2012. Mrs. Cooper teaches U.S. history, world geography, world history, government, and economics. She also sponsors the school yearbook and the UIL Social Studies and Current Issues and Events Team and has been instrumental in developing the district's social studies curriculum.

Jessica Halfmann, an English teacher in Veribest ISD, said, "Mrs. Cooper has singlehandedly created an interesting and dynamic social studies curriculum that she implements flawlessly. Her students have great success on state assessments, but more importantly, they enjoy learning history. She is an excellent teacher who is admired by her peers, revered by her students, and loved by everyone on campus."

"I believe that the best teaching is hands-on," said Mrs. Cooper. "Students like to be creative and they like to be in control of their own learning. When designing lessons, I try to incorporate things that they are interested in such as music, art, and even Facebook."

Students enjoy learning history through Mrs. Cooper's innovative, engaging, and hands-on activities, which include role-playing activities and field trips.

U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette presented Patricia Hofeditz with an award on October 10, 2012. Mrs. Hofeditz teaches English literature and composition at Richardson High School, where she also serves as the English department chair.

Jeanne Cohen, a former teacher at Richardson High School, said that Mrs. Hofeditz "embodies the finest attributes of a teacher with her broad range of knowledge of the humanities, her rigorous and organized approach to curriculum, and her skill in building a powerful rapport with both her students and her peers."

Mrs. Hofeditz challenges her students with classroom activities and assignments that require them to not only read and write analytically, but also develop personal and meaningful connections to the literature they study.

"In creating lessons, I always attempt to include relevant connections to the student," said Mrs. Hofeditz. "Classical literature is classical because it reveals human behavior, no matter the society, the language, or the century in which it was written. The lessons learned, whether from Candide or Hamlet, are lessons appropriate for today's seniors—worthy of contemplation and discussion."

Humanities Texas board member Joy Ann Havran and Chandler Cochran, field representative for State Senator Jane Nelson, joined Liz James to present Chris Cooper with an award on October 15, 2012. Mr. Cooper teaches government at Northwest High School in Justin, where he sponsors the Philosophy Club, heads the social studies Professional Learning Community, and serves as campus technology liaison.

Dottie Vinzant, social studies department chair at Northwest High School, said Mr. Cooper "continually searches for new content to bring to his students and makes every effort to instill in them a love for learning and an openness to keep in touch with current events. Moreover, he incorporates a knowledge of literature and the arts in his classes, demonstrating to his students the advantages of a well-rounded education."

In his government class, Mr. Cooper encourages his students to learn more about and understand their roles as engaged citizens and leaders. In addition to his innovative classroom activities, Mr. Cooper challenges his students to become involved in local political campaigns and routinely invites local political leaders to speak with his class.

"I want [my students] to see that the government is not a separate entity from them," said Mr. Cooper. "My class, in short, is intended to be an incubator for politically involved citizens."

As a sponsor of the after school, student-led Philosophy Club, Mr. Cooper invites students to take a deeper look into the topics that they cover in class.

"Each session we focus on a particular think or philosophic problem," said Mr. Cooper. "Students this age are already asking the important fundamental questions."

Michael L. Gillette presented Wendy Warren with an award on October 16, 2012. Mrs. Warren teaches U.S. history and Holocaust and genocide studies at Hastings High School in Alief Independent School District, where she chairs Textperts, a committee she helped found in 2005 that works to improve literacy on campus.

Jennifer Parker, principal at Hastings High School, said, "One of Mrs. Warren's most notable qualities is that she advocates excellence for every student in her room. Success is the only option. This belief is contagious, and her students diligently work to accomplish goals they set in her classroom."

In 2011, Mrs. Warren developed the "Think through the Summer" program at Hastings High School, collecting over eighteen thousand donated books for a summer book fair in which students each chose three books for summer reading.

Two years ago, Mrs. Warren piloted the first Holocaust and genocide studies elective in the district. While studying about the Holocaust and other twentieth-century genocides, her students learn about tolerance, understanding, and active citizenship.

"I believe it is vital that our students have the critical thinking skills needed for a rapidly changing world," said Mrs. Warren. "The other half of my philosophy is to create good citizens—an important component of social studies education."

Left to right: Ken Newman, secondary campuses principal at Veribest ISD; OTA recipient Nancy Cooper; and Liz James, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas.
Left to right: U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions, OTA recipient Patricia Hofeditz, Humanities Texas board member Paula Peters, and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette.
Left to right: Joy Ann Havran, Humanities Texas board member; Liz James; Chandler Cochran, field representative for State Senator Jane Nelson; OTA recipient Charles Cooper; and Jason Childress, principal of Northwest High School.
Left to right: Gina Tomas, deputy superintendent of Alief Independent School District; Michael L. Gillette; OTA recipient Wendy Warren; Hastings High School Principal Jennifer Parker, and District Social Studies Coordinator Greg Byers.