We are pleased to close out this cycle of our Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Awards by featuring the final four 2020 recipients. Each award winner 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 2021 Outstanding Teaching Award winners later this spring!
Adrian Reyna of Longfellow Middle School in San Antonio recevied the 2020 Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award, which recognizes teachers who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the educational field. Reyna has devoted all nine years of his classroom career to teaching U.S. history at Longfellow Middle School.
"The purpose of public education is to humanize our students and help them understand who they are, the power of their voice, and the limitless potential that is their future," stated Reyna. "Creating opportunities for my students to lead, dialogue, and problem solve in my classroom leads to them creating their own opportunities to do the same outside of the classroom."
In addition to teaching U.S. history, Reyna is a founding member of PODER, a social justice caucus within the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. They work toward many goals, such as ensuring culturally relevant pedagogy throughout the district and city, developing and conducting training for teachers and immigrant families, and facilitating and working with a student-led coalition to create a Student Bill of Rights for San Antonio Independant School District.
"Mr. Reyna creates opportunities and provides encouragement for students to tell their stories and advocate for themselves," stated Texas State Senator José Menéndez. "It is evident from my time with him that Mr. Reyna doesn't just have a passion for education, history, and government, he clearly has a passion for transforming the lives of his students and his community through civic and social justice awareness and action."
Humanities Texas awarded Frances Santos of Travis Early College High School in San Antonio a 2020 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award, which recognizes exemplary K–12 humanities teachers. She has spent the entirety of her twenty-six-year career teaching in San Antonio. For the last eight years, Santos has taught multiple levels of English at Travis Early College High School and has piloted the school's AP Capstone program.
"I want my students to take ownership of their own learning," said Santos. "I want them to foster the inquisitive nature within themselves that allows them to listen, pause, respond, and forge a path to understanding."
Outside of teaching English, Santos also organizes student activities across grade levels. Previous activities include an outing to a Gemini Ink Author's Luncheon featuring poet Terrance Hayes and a campus-wide initiative to register eligible students to vote in the 2018 midterm election.
"Her premise of shared experiences, respect for ideas, and to develop the concept of listening is fundamental to create a sense of scholarship and to further inquisitiveness," commented Ellen Clark, professor emerita at The University of Texas at San Antonio. "Frances Santos is a hard worker who demonstrates both a high-level professionalism and integrity as a teacher, a researcher, and a working poet."
Humanities Texas awarded Leah Stephanow of Cypress Woods High School a 2020 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Stephanow's classroom career spans thirty years, and she has spent the last twelve years teaching government, economics, and law at Cypress Woods High School.
"One of the most important things in my teaching strategies is to make the information I teach relevant to students," commented Stephanow. "I want my students to leave my classroom at the end of the semester understanding that they have a stake in our republic and must be active and informed citizens to make it thrive."
Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Stephanow is the membership chair and treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Cy-Fair. She once testified to the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about high school student registration issues and continues to help sign up local high schools for voter registration.
"While it is impossible to sum up or measure the widespread impact Leah has had on our student body, I know that her influence will last a lifetime in the hearts and minds of our students," said Cypress Woods High School Director of Instruction Kelly Ellis. "She has helped establish a safe space at our campus and in our community wherein students are informed and feel confident and safe to advocate for themselves and others."
Sarah Walker of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin is recipient of the 2020 Humanities Texas James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award, which is reserved for the teacher who receives the highest rating from the Humanities Texas award committee. Walker has spent eight of her ten years in the classroom at the Ann Richards School teaching tenth-grade English language arts and journalism.
"I treat English as part of an ecosystem of interconnected disciplines, rather than as one of many silos on the academic farm," stated Walker. "As students understand how the knowledge and skills gained in my class empower them in other courses and in their lives outside of school, they evidence a deep investment in the work they do."
In addition to teaching English language arts and journalism, Walker also created an Academic Editors program at the campus writing center where students learn to coach peer writers. She is also training students to curate and design a journal where they will publish the school's best academic writing across disciplines.
"Her passion for the profession of education, her love of students, her level of expectation, and her depth of literacy is unmatched," commented Ann Richards School Principal Kristina Waugh. "I trust her integrity of instruction, her ability to learn alongside students, and her passion for modeling the journey of inquiry."