Supporting teachers is a vital part of Humanities Texas's organizational mission. From our Outstanding Teaching Awards to our professional development programs for Texas classroom teachers, we recognize the extraordinary value of teachers who not only inspire our students, but also cultivate a love of learning and an understanding of the role that the humanities play in our everyday lives. In celebration of inspiring teachers and innovative classroom practices, we introduce a new teacher spotlight to our e-newsletter. This month, our featured teacher is Mary Lagleder, a 2014 recipient of a Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching Award.

Mary Lagleder, an eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher at San Antonio's Earl Warren High School, was one of thirteen recipients of a 2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Over five hundred teachers across Texas were nominated for the 2014 awards.

Mary's impact on both Warren High School and the Northside Independent School District community is clear and measurable.

In her relatively short tenure at Warren High School, she has doubled the pass rate for the AP U.S. history exam. Northside ISD selected her to lead the district's first AP U.S. history professional learning community in which she created common assessments for the district's AP U.S. history teachers. As one of the Academic Decathlon coaches at Warren High School, her students regularly compete in, and win, academic competitions across Texas and the nation.

However, according to David Empson, principal at Warren High School, "her true measure continues to be the one-on-one relationships she fosters with students to believe they can succeed. With Mary, doors are opened; possibilities become realities."

Mary's focus on students never wavers.

Not only does she create an engaging and innovative classroom environment where students take ownership of their learning, but she also spends time outside of normal school hours to create opportunities for students to learn and to shine.

"Mary is relentless in seeking opportunities for students," said her co-coach for the Academic Decathlon team, Terry Zablocki. "If it means being a part-time counselor, part-time mediator, part-time jack-of-all-trades, she will be whatever it takes to help every student that walks into her room."

In her application for the 2014 Outstanding Teaching Award, Mary wrote "My most significant accomplishment as a teacher of the humanities has been instilling in my students the idea that in our year of studying history, the textbook and the teacher are not the only historians present. They too are historians uncovering clues left by our ancestors, evaluating the evidence to draw conclusions about our past, and applying those conclusions to their understanding of our present."

When discussing the Vietnam War, one of her favorite activities is to play Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" on the record player that she keeps in the classroom. She has her students compare and contrast the songs in the context of changing American attitudes throughout the Vietnam War. These types of discussions spark student interest in history and current events, eliciting such questions as "what does my music say about the present?"

"My proudest moments as an educator are when my students tell me that my energy in the classroom or a particular assignment that I created has caused them to pay just a little more attention or become more inquisitive about history," Mary said. "When their curiosity is piqued, students are more likely to seek information and edification outside of the classroom."

Finally, Mary shows her students how the humanities play an important and influential role in learning and in life after their formal education has ended.

"I fight to make time in my lessons to facilitate historical thinking skills and analytical skills in my students so that they are prepared to answer life's larger questions when they leave my classroom," wrote Mary. "I have no doubt that regular exposure to documents and recurrent quest for analysis and evaluation will help students to meet the challenges they will face when they get into college and the 'real world.'"

Recognizing Mary's exemplary contributions to the Warren High School community, Humanities Texas awarded her with a 2014 Outstanding Teaching Award, complementing many other teaching awards she has received, including Warren High School teacher of the year and the H-E-B Excellence in Education Rising Star Award in 2014.

Last October, U.S. Congressman Joaquín Castro and Humanities Texas Program Officer Lindsey Waldenberg presented Mary with the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award at Warren High School. Accompanying the award was a $5,000 check for Mary, as well as $500 for Warren High School.

Humanities Texas continues to recognize the amazing work of teachers like Mary Lagleder. For more information about our teaching awards, please visit the Awards page on our website.

Left to right: Congressman Joaquín Castro, Humanities Texas staff member Lindsey Waldenberg, Warren High School teacher Mary Lagleder, Principal David Empson, and Superintendent Dr. Brian Woods at Ms. Lagleder’s October 2014 Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching Award presentation.
Mary Lagleder (left) with one of her students at a "Night at the Museum" event at which students displayed exhibitions they had developed over the last few weeks of the semester.

Mary Lagleder speaks about innovative teaching on Northside Speaks.

Mary Lagleder (far right) with Congressman Joaquín Castro and a group of Warren High School students.