We are pleased to feature the final five winners of the 2019 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Each received $5,000, with an additional $500 for their respective schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Read more about these amazing Texas teachers, and stay tuned for the announcement of our 2020 Outstanding Teaching Award winners in May!
On December 2nd, 2019, Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and Humanities Texas Board Member Reba Cardenas McNair presented Alice Aguilar of Rivera Early College High School (ECHS) in Brownsville with a Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Aguilar, who has spent her entire twenty-seven-year career at Rivera ECHS, currently teaches all levels of high school English language arts, including Advanced Placement classes and a composition course.
"My goal has always been to help my students see relevance in the literature they think is outdated or irrelevant to their own lives," said Aguilar. "A humanities education inspires curiosity and an enhanced love of learning by offering an intriguing, behind-the-scenes type of viewpoint on things, which often leads to a desire to learn more and seek out new and interesting connections."
In addition to her teaching at the high school level, Aguilar dedicates her time to the Upward Bound Program—sponsored by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley—as a reading and writing instructor to first-generation college students.
"Mrs. Aguilar exemplifies the curiosity and innovative spirit a teacher in this world needs to connect with and engage all students to excel," said Genny Sterling, Dean of Instruction for Brownsville Independent School District. "She represents the very best of what a teacher strives to become and what a student hopes for."
State Representative Eddie Lucio III, former Humanities Texas Board Member Manuel Medrano, and current Humanities Texas Board Member Reba Cardenas McNair presented Monica Avila of South Texas ISD Academy for Medical Professions in Olmito with a Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a ceremony at her school on March 2, 2020.
Avila, whose career spans fifteen years, has spent the last four years teaching U.S. history, government, and economics.
"With my classes, I have always strived towards relevance as my method of teaching history," said Avila. "I challenge my students to become local historians and utilize local historical sites, events, and people to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for Brownsville's role in shaping American history."
After attending a Humanities Texas institute in 2012, Avila was inspired to become more involved with her local historical organizations, including the Brownsville Historical Association (BHA). She collaborates with the BHA to create place-based learning opportunities for her students, which include walking tours and scavenger hunts.
Principal of South Texas ISD Academy for Medical Professions Harry Goette commented, "Ms. Avila has provided outstanding leadership by sharing with our community her love for social studies and the history of the Rio Grande Valley."
Humanities Texas awarded Karen Galley of Success High School in Fort Worth the 2019 James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. This award honors James F. Veninga, Humanities Texas executive director emeritus, for his twenty-three years of extraordinary contributions to the state council and the public humanities.
For thirteen of the past twenty years of her teaching career, Galley has been a U.S. history teacher at Success High School.
"Not only does humanities content give students a window to the world, but the process of learning humanities gives students access to their own perceptions, opinions, and questions about the world," said Galley. "In other words, I have come to believe that the 'how' of humanities is just as important as the 'what.'"
Galley serves as the language center team lead at Success High School, where she has an array of duties including facilitating bi-weekly meetings for faculty members, attending district-level meetings, and supporting professional development opportunities.
"At the center of these efforts is Dr. Galley's dedication to providing students with the best educational opportunities," commented Joseph Niedziela, director of social studies at Fort Worth Independent School District. "She is an instructional problem-solver and employs best pedagogical approaches to bridge the needs of her students with the demands of the curriculum."
Humanities Texas awarded Maureen Sullivan of Flour Bluff Primary School in Corpus Christi a 2019 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Sullivan, who has spent fifteen of her twenty-one years teaching at Flour Bluff Primary, currently teaches second-grade English language arts as well as gifted and talented classes. Sullivan is also a student herself, pursuing a PhD in curriculum and instruction with a focus on literacy at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
"It is through the humanities that young students begin to make sense of the world and their place within it," stated Sullivan. "Thinking about the needs of my students and taking measures to reach them where they are is what allows learning to occur, and that is where the magic happens."
In addition to teaching second-graders at Flour Bluff Primary, Sullivan is also a leader among her colleagues. She has served as the lead teacher of the gifted and talented program since 2011, utilizing research-based methods and materials to accelerate and enrich English language arts instruction in the second-grade curriculum.
"Ms. Sullivan uses innovative projects with her class that enhance and incorporate different disciplines," stated Tanya Schillinger, curriculum supervisor at Flour Bluff Primary. "She continually goes above and beyond to engage her students and ensure they are receiving the best that she has to offer."
Humanities Texas awarded Kaci Morgan a 2019 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching.
Morgan is in her third year of teaching and taught English language arts at Dallas's CityLab High School through the spring of 2019. She currently teaches at Woodrow Wilson High School, also in Dallas.
"Overall, I strive to reach each child where they are at and encourage them to love literature and writing," commented Morgan. "And, from that love, I hope that they see themselves as powerful in the creation of their stories and society."
In addition to teaching high school-level classes, Morgan also serves as the lead for the Dallas Independent School District tenth-grade reading language arts curriculum. In this position, she creates lessons and videos for teachers and administrators across the district to use.
"Ms. Morgan puts students first; it's that simple," said Sue Nozick, former campus coordinator at CityLab. "In her planning, instruction, assessment, and daily activities, her student focus is undeniable and the students respond to it. She has been able to translate that student focus to relationships and has built rapport with the hardest to reach teenagers."