We are pleased to showcase four more 2019 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award recipients and their recent award presentations. As the year draws to a close, Humanities Texas staff and board members continue to travel across the state to honor our Outstanding Teaching Award winners with their students, colleagues, and elected officials.
Each award winner receives $5,000, with an additional $500 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. Read more below about the teachers we celebrated most recently, and stay tuned for more in 2020!
State Representative Julie Johnson and former Humanities Texas board member and former Texas State Historian Light Cummins presented Terri Truong with the 2019 Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award during a presentation in the library of Polk Middle School on November 6, 2019. The audience of about eighty-five included Polk teachers, counselors, and administrators as well as Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD representatives, and Truong's family.
Truong teaches Texas history, journalism, and yearbook at Ted Polk Middle School, where she has spent the entirety of her four-year career. She also serves as seventh-grade level leader, organizing lesson plans, facilitating professional development, and providing growth opportunities for fellow teachers within CFBISD.
"As a teacher of Texas history, I believe that it is so imperative for students to understand why their lives are the way they are today," said Truong. "I have worked tirelessly to reinvigorate lessons that will engage and challenge students to higher levels of learning."
In addition to her classroom teaching and district-wide social studies facilitation, Truong is also a member of Social Studies ASPIRE, a teacher-led group that offers professional development and constructive feedback for secondary social studies teachers to strengthen their pedagogical practices.
"Everything that Terri has done has been used to create a better sense of community on campus and push her students as they develop socially, emotionally, and academically," said Karen Polascik, the social studies department manager at Polk Middle School. "In her short four-year career, she has already had a wide-reaching impact on our campus and our district."
On November 12, 2019, State Senator Charles Perry and Humanities Texas board member Sean Cunningham presented Jamie Wormsbaker with her award during an assembly of students and district officials at Lubbock-Cooper High School. The presentation took place in the school commons with about thirty students and various officials from the school and the district, including Keith Bryant, the superintendent of Lubbock-Cooper ISD.
Wormsbaker has been teaching at Lubbock-Cooper High School for the past two years of her sixteen-year teaching career. She currently teaches English language arts and dual credit English.
"I know that our humanities courses help students think critically, discern between facts and opinions, see themselves and others in history and literature, and develop empathy," stated Wormsbaker. "The humanities teacher illuminates the pathways to the past and to the future, and, in doing so, changes lives."
In addition to teaching English language arts classes, Wormsbaker is also the English department head at Lubbock-Cooper High School. She is responsible for the English language arts teaching teams, analyzes student needs with team members, and provides training and support for new teachers.
"Jamie is a dedicated educator who loves teaching and always looks for ways to better herself as a teacher," commented Jimmy Ledbetter, principal at Roosevelt High School who nominated Wormsbaker. "She is not afraid to try something new if she thinks it will help her students."
State Representative Diego Bernal and Humanities Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator Marissa Kessenich presented Gretchen Wickes with her award during a presentation at LEE High School on November 18, 2019. The presentation took place in the main office and Wickes's classroom. About twenty of Wickes's students, a dozen colleagues and administrators, and a handful of family members were in attendance.
Wickes has spent all of her ten-year teaching career at LEE High School. She currently teaches AP world history and AP macroeconomics.
"I have taught five different subjects to three different grade levels in ten years of teaching, but my approach has always been the same," commented Wickes. "I encourage my students to see the best in themselves, I work to inspire them to challenge themselves to work harder and learn more than they believed possible, and I always try to make class fun, even if the coursework is difficult."
In addition to teaching upper-level high school classes, Wickes is also a mentor teacher for three Trinity University students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program. She assists the students with lesson planning, teaching techniques, and professional development.
"She takes great care to create a learning environment where all students feel welcome and where everyone can partake freely in the learning," said Ilena Rivera Liberatore, professional development coordinator at International School of the Americas and LEE High School. "Everyone's voice is elicited and valued. Gretchen teaches her students to work together and help one another: students are invested not only in one another, but in one another's success."
State Representative Gina Hinojosa and Humanities Texas Director of Education Liz James presented Stacy Webster with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award at Austin High School on November 19, 2019.
Webster, whose teaching career spans twenty-five years, has been at Austin High School (AHS) for the past seventeen years. She currently teaches English II within The Academy for Global Studies, a small learning community on the AHS campus that fosters international understanding and welcomes diversity of thought, while preparing students for a globally interconnected world.
"A humanities-based education provides balance and connection, and, in a world that is increasingly divided and destructive, finding ourselves in the bigger picture may be what saves us," commented Webster. "Approaching learning through the interdisciplinary connection of history, literature, philosophy, and the arts provides a foundation in what it means to be human."
In addition to teaching English courses, Webster is also an instructional coach for the academy model at AHS. She helps her colleagues develop relevant units of study based on learning pillars and works to design project-based learning tools for team members.
"As Austin High School grows from one academy to four, Stacy is a logical choice to guide the new academies and has found a way to balance her own teaching duties with her responsibilities supporting the new academies' teachers," said Cherry Whipple, who also teaches within The Academy for Global Studies. "How Stacy juggles so many roles on our campus is mind-boggling. Her ability to lead, support, and guide other teachers, to help create even more amazing learning experiences for students at our school, is an inspiration."