Each year, Humanities Texas presents statewide awards to recognize Texas classroom teachers who have made exemplary contributions in teaching, curriculum development, and extracurricular programming. We are pleased to feature four of our 2023 Outstanding Teaching Award recipients and their award presentations. Each award winner received $5,000, with an additional $1,000 for their schools to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities.
Read more below about the teachers we recently celebrated, and stay tuned for upcoming newsletter features on our other winners!
On October 30, 2023, U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and William Serrata, Humanities Texas board member and president of El Paso Community College, presented Cristina Rubio with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at El Paso High School.
Rubio, who has been teaching English language arts for ten years, goes above and beyond at El Paso High School. She consistently seeks out opportunities to expand her practice and challenges herself to develop new methods of reaching her students.
"My goal every year is to teach my students to understand themselves better, the world around them, and the one they have yet to experience," said Rubio.
"Mrs. Rubio is not just committed to enriching her practice but to using what she learns to create an outstanding learning environment that reaches her students and pushes them to want to learn more," said El Paso High School Assistant Principal Michael Warmack.
On November 29, 2023, Destinee Vargas, district director to U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul, and Humanities Texas board member Carlos Blanton presented Caitlin Baumgarten with the Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award during a presentation at A&M Consolidated Middle School in College Station.
In addition to creating an engaging classroom environment and bringing history to life for her students, Baumgarten finds passion in helping other social studies teachers reach their students in new, exciting ways through her podcast, History Teachers Club.
When asked about the impact of this award, Baumgarten said, "This recognition represents the culmination of my journey towards achieving the goals I had set for myself, inspired by the transformative power of education and the humanities."
"We history teachers love to say that our lessons 'make history come alive' but I have never quite seen that actually happen so much as it does in Caitlin's classroom," remarked Daniel Lewer, podcast cohost and social studies teacher. "Her effort to make history truly come alive goes beyond room transformations and costumes. It fundamentally rests in the engaging lessons and rich content that her students have to wrestle with in her classroom."
On December 11, 2023, Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Chase Untermeyer, Humanities Texas board member and former U.S. ambassador to Qatar, presented A. D. Adkins with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at Kempner High School in Sugar Land.
Adkins prides herself on making her history classes engaging for students by creating an immersive experience in her classroom, sharing travel stories and memorabilia from her trips to historical sites, and organizing meaningful field trips for her students.
"Education should be more than just words on a page and should bring concepts and ideas to life," Adkins commented. "Humanities makes this possible."
"When I walk by her room, I hear the music of the time period, which sets the mood for learning," Lorelei Thorp, professional learning lead at Kempner High School, remarked. "As a master humanities teacher, Dr. Adkins infuses her lessons not only with music, but also with language, literature, the arts, culture, and history. All aspects of a time period are covered."
On December 11, 2023, Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt and Humanities Texas Exhibitions Curator Jenny Peterson presented Jennifer Siger with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at Klein ISD's Board of Trustees meeting.
Siger, who is in her fifteenth year of teaching, teaches middle school language arts. She takes great pride in the curiosity, courage, and understanding her students display. Whether her students are discussing an ancient culture's history or the history of their own names, Siger feels privileged to teach the humanities to her students.
"In the world these precious children will inherit, it is possible [that the] study of the humanities is the most important endeavor of their generation," said Siger. "Watching my students grow as critical thinkers who will never stop questioning the world around them fills me with hope for the future."
"I had the joy of joining Mrs. Siger's seventh-grade humanities [class] during a Socratic seminar as students were discussing the concept of nature vs. nurture in Frankenstein," said Jenney Johnston, literary specialist at Klein ISD. "Listening to their responses made me feel as if I had been transported to a high school classroom discussion. It was evident in the quality of preparedness and class discussions that methods of that magnitude are typical for her students."