This Thanksgiving, we are highlighting some Texas teachers we are thankful for! In the last month, our staff has traveled across the state to celebrate several of our Outstanding Teaching Award winners with their students, colleagues, and elected officials. Each award winner received $5,000, with an additional $500 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. Read more about the impressive teachers we celebrated below.

Are you thankful for a teacher in your life? Nominate them for an award! Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for our 2019 Outstanding Teaching Awards through Friday, December 7, 2018. Visit our Awards page for more information and to submit a nomination.

Dhara Lad, Emmett J. Conrad High School, Dallas

State Senator Don Huffines and Humanities Texas Grants Program Coordinator Marco Buentello presented Dhara Lad with her Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching on October 16, 2018, in a ceremony at Emmett J. Conrad High School. 

Lad, who is in her third year of teaching, is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, with a degree in international relations and global studies as well as Asian cultures and languages. She currently teaches pre-AP world geography to ninth-grade students. 

"As important as science and technology are to our future, students also need to be grounded in instruction that immerses them in the big questions: what kind of society do we want and what are the obligations and opportunities we have to better our families, our community, and our world?" posed Lad. "A humanities education provides not only content knowledge but also political, economic, and social frameworks for understanding the complex world we live in." 

Lad strives to make history interesting and relevant to her students. In her second year of teaching, she received grants from Teaching Tolerance and the Texas Commission on the Arts, which allowed her to teach a specialized unit on Islam. During the three-week unit, her students holistically analyzed and experienced a major world culture. The unit culminated in her class attending a performance by Riyaaz Qawwali, the only active South Asian qawwali ensemble in the United States. 

"Ms. Lad is a rare find—an educator who will go the distance to do what it takes to reach students of all backgrounds—in a spirit of universal compassion combined with high academic expectations," commented Thuy Nguyen, a lead teacher at Conrad High School. "Her commitment to excellence along with her genuine passion for instilling intellectual curiosity in students are unsurpassed."

Juan Carmona, Donna High School, Donna

State Representative Terry Canales and Humanities Texas Communications Officer Marissa Kessenich presented Juan Carmona with the James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a ceremony at Donna High School on October 24, 2018.

Carmona teaches a wide array of social studies courses, including U.S. history, world history, and Mexican American history.

"My primary passion as a teacher is the promotion of teaching Mexican American studies," stated Carmona. "I began this endeavor years ago because I saw a void in the teaching of history and a void in our students' self-esteem. I knew that if I could find a way to make history relevant to my students they would be engaged and successful in school and in life."

In support of his Mexican American history course, Carmona has created a curriculum that is free online for other teachers to utilize. He promotes the course at education conferences, conducts teacher workshops, and, most recently, has testified at the Texas State Board of Education in support of the creation of statewide educational standards for Mexican American studies.

"Mr. Carmona has proved himself as a vital component of Donna High School," U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez said, "and his teaching efforts have enriched the lives of his students—past, present, and future. I thank Mr. Carmona for his impeccable dedication to educating our youth and preparing them to enter the world with courage, perseverance, and intellectual resilience."

Cherry Whipple, Stephen F. Austin High School, Austin

State Senator Kirk Watson and Humanities Texas Foundation Relations Coordinator Elizabeth Bradford Frye presented Cherry Whipple with her Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at Austin High School on October 31, 2018.

Whipple, who served on Austin High School's faculty for fourteen years, currently teaches U.S. history. She is one of the founding teachers of the Academy for Global Studies, a smaller learning community on campus that fosters international understanding and awareness within its students.

"Cherry goes above and beyond the usual expectations of a teacher," commented Nicole Griffith, director of the Academy for Global Studies. "She brings joy to her classroom, and students respond by growing as learners."

Whipple has dedicated her teaching career to the instruction of such core principles as effective communication, solution-focused learning, and the inclusion of multiple, diverse perspectives. With this model in mind, the Academy for Global Studies incorporates problem-based learning, advocacy, and service learning into core classes.

"Cherry Whipple has mastered the art of teaching students to think for themselves. Few lessons are more important. I'm very proud that she's part of the Austin ISD community," Senator Watson said. "Both of my boys (now grown men) learned history from Ms. Whipple and say she was a great teacher. I can think of no greater compliment for a teacher than students who remember her with happiness and a fast compliment."

Yeri Villalobos, North Shore Senior High School, Houston

State Representative Ana Hernandez and Humanities Texas Communications Officer Marissa Kessenich presented Yeri Villalobos his Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching during a presentation at North Shore Senior High School on November 1, 2018.

At the time of the award, Villalobos taught both on-level and AP U.S. history. He recently accepted the role of assistant principal at North Shore Middle School.

"Although Mr. Villalobos is a third-year teacher, he exhibits the characteristics of a teacher with much more experience," commented Joe Coleman, principal of North Shore Senior High School. "He is an asset to his department and is held in high esteem by his colleagues. I cannot tell you how rare it is for a teacher with three years of experience to have such high qualities."

In 2017, Villalobos single-handedly planned and led a Washington, DC, tour for his students. The trip offered students the opportunity to see up-close what they learned in his U.S. history classroom. While touring the Capitol, his students had the opportunity to meet the vice president.

"As educators, we have the amazing opportunity of teaching our students about endless topics that will spark interest, broaden their horizons, and engage their young minds," said Villalobos. "I work to build students up and give them the confidence they need to go out and succeed."

"Teachers are on the front lines in shaping our world and preparing the next generation to lead and grow," commented Representative Hernandez. "Classroom heroes like Mr. Villalobos are indispensable in keeping our community's promise to open doors and create worlds of possibility for every young person."








(From l to r:) Humanities Texas Grants Program Coordinator Marco Buentello, OTA winner Dhara Lad, and Senator Don Huffines.










(From l to r:) Donna High School Principal Nancy Castillo, State Representative Terry Canales, OTA winner Juan Carmona, Donna ISD Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, and Humanities Texas Communications Officer Marissa Kessenich.







(From l to r:) Humanities Texas Foundation Relations Coordinator Elizabeth Bradford Frye, Austin High School Assistant Principal Aaron Vohl, OTA winner Cherry Whipple, and Senator Kirk Watson.







(From l to r:) Galena ISD Social Studies Program Director Laurie Patterson, Representative Ana Hernandez, OTA winner Yeri Villalobos, Galena Park ISD Superintendent Angi Williams, Humanities Texas Communications Officer Marissa Kessenich, and North Shore Middle School Principal Christopher Eckford.