On November 8, State Representative Scott Hochberg and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette presented Brita Donohue of Houston with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during an assembly at Ms. Donohue’s school.

At the time of the award, Ms. Donohue taught fifth-grade writing at KIPP Sharpstown College Prep, a Houston charter school she helped found in 2007 that is dedicated to preparing underserved students for success in college. She now serves as the dean of instruction. Ms. Donohue’s fifth-grade students develop a passion for writing through innovative lessons that range from monthly writing celebrations to visits from guest authors and writing field trips. Field trips have included traveling to colonial Williamsburg to understand revolutionary America and visiting a ranch to learn about nineteenth-century life.

Chong-Hao Fu, principal of KIPP Sharpstown College Prep said, “Through her tireless efforts [Ms. Donohue] has led her students to attain a high level of academic achievement and access meaningful real world experiences. As a teacher and leader, she has positively shaped our school culture, mentored other adults, and served as the chair for her grade-level team.”

“As a teacher, I feel there is no greater gift we can give students than the love of learning,” said Ms. Donohue. “If my students leave fifth grade learning nothing else, I would feel successful because I know that they will spend the rest of their lives seeking knowledge.”

On October 18, U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson joined Rachel Spradley, Humanities Texas program officer, to present Beth A. Burau of Dallas with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

Ms. Burau teaches creative writing, English, and German at Bishop Lynch High School, where she helped establish the Shakespeare Society and has been instrumental in curriculum design. Ms. Burau’s classes focus on making connections, creating cultural awareness, and exploring different methods of communication. Her students examine German cultural history through traditional puppet shows and develop communication skills in a German conversation club.

Over the past several years, Ms. Burau has successfully coordinated summer programs for her students to travel to European countries and study language and literature, expanding their horizons outside of the classroom.

Evelyn B. Grubbs, principal of Bishop Lynch, said, “Beth is a truly amazing teacher who thrives on creating innovative ways to bring her English material alive for her students. . . . [She] incorporates into every subject lesson a cross-curricular component involving art, music, or history. She does an incredible job of developing all facets of her students.”

Susanna Hill, program officer at Humanities Texas, presented Linda Cottle of Devine with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award on November 5.

Ms. Cottle teaches English at Devine High School, where she also serves as a class sponsor and holds an academic counseling period. “I teach because I care about people,” said Ms. Cottle. “That’s what it’s all about: helping even one student to discover that learning can be worthwhile—and even fun—each year. That’s my measure of success. That’s why I teach.” The journaling activities she leads with her students challenge their ideas and opinions and encourage them to blossom intellectually and creatively.

Mike Lawson, principal of Devine High School, said, “The level of thinking that Ms. Cottle requires of her students is something to be admired. In addition to providing an atmosphere conducive to learning, she sets expectations that students will learn at a high level and that they will think differently, and assume different points of view on a particular thought or piece of literature.”

Congressman Sam Johnson and Liz Bohman Barger, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas, presented Dodie Kasper of Frisco with her award on October 25. Ms. Kasper teaches government and serves as the instructional coach for the social studies department at Liberty High School in Frisco. She is heavily involved in Law-Related Education for the State Bar of Texas and participated in the U.S. House of Representatives Fellows program in 2009.

Ms. Kasper infuses her daily lessons with opportunities for classroom participation. Her students assume legislative roles during Mock Congress, serve as attorneys and Supreme Court justices during a Moot Court activity, and travel to Washington, D.C., as part of the Close Up program.

Jeff Crowe, a fellow social studies teacher at Liberty High School, said, “Mrs. Kasper is an exceptionally talented teacher of the humanities who takes time to plan, reaches students from diverse backgrounds, and trains students to be independent and collaborative learners. She is an excellent mentor for students as well as teachers, demonstrating the qualities necessary for becoming a lifelong learner.”

“My approach to teaching students is that the time we spend together is a partnership,” said Ms. Kasper. “I provide them with information and assignments that will give them the confidence to actively participate in simulations that involve government. Together we explore and analyze the foundations on which our system of government was established and how that has been adapted to current situations.”

U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes and J. Sam Moore, former chair of the Humanities Texas Board of Directors, presented Maggie Moody of El Paso with the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award on October 13.

At the time of the award, Ms. Moody served as the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program coordinator and reading support teacher at Riverside Middle School. Ms. Moody encourages her students to become insightful and reflective readers by developing rigorous lessons that challenge higher-level thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills. Through field trips to museums and universities, she exposes her students to the world outside the classroom and the opportunities that await them. Their study of Elie Wiesel’s Night culminates in a visit to the El Paso Holocaust Museum. This past May, Ms. Moody and her students traveled to New York City to visit Columbia and NYU, inspiring students to apply for college.

Jim Mesta, principal of Riverside Middle School at the time of the award, said, “Ms. Moody provides help and support to underachieving middle school students by preparing them for success in colleges and universities. She not only teaches students important and necessary life skills, but also brings them a newfound success in their current school efforts.”

“My mission as a teacher is to help my students develop into self-confident, well-rounded individuals who will become meaningful members of the twenty-first century,” said Ms. Moody. “This goal is best achieved by developing critical thinkers.”

For a complete list of winners, click here.

Nominations for the 2010–2011 Outstanding Teaching Awards are due on December 10, 2010. For more information, click here.

From left to right: HTx board member Leslie D. Blanton, State Representative Scott Hochberg, Brita Donohue, Michael L. Gillette, HTx board member Monica Perales, Aaron Brenner, head of schools at KIPP SHINE, and Mike Feinberg, KIPP founder.
From left to right: Evelyn Grubbs, principal of Bishop Lynch High School, Rachel Spradley, HTx program officer, Beth A. Burau, and U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson.
From left to right: Mike Lawson, principal of Devine High School, Susanna Hill, HTx program officer, and Linda Cottle.
Liz Bohman Barger, HTx coordinator of educational programs, Dodie Kasper, and Congressman Sam Johnson.
Maggie Moody.