As 2015 draws to a close and we at Humanities Texas reflect on our ongoing mission to advance education, we continue to recognize the state’s classroom teacher, who are essential partners in this work. For December’s Teacher Feature, we are pleased to highlight four more 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award recipients and their recent award presentations.
On December 4, 2015, Chance Watson, a representative from Congressman Sam Johnson's office, and Humanities Texas staff member Sam Moore honored Becky Adams of Allen High School with a 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award.
Adams teaches AP literature and composition at Allen High School, where she also serves as a teacher leader, mentor, and staff developer.
"Mrs. Adams is an inspiration to teachers, parents, and students alike," said Rebecca Richardson, a fellow teacher at Allen High School. "There is not a doubt in my mind that this amazing educator is most deserving of this recognition."
Adams's innovative and engaging lessons and classroom activities center on close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing—skills required for success not only in an AP literature course, but also in post-secondary education and beyond. She challenges her students to understand and appreciate the power and versatility of language.
"I adore my content and seek to share that passion daily, but, in the grand scheme of life, the habits of mind and conscience and self-awareness cultivated in students are paramount," said Adams. "Discussing what it means to be human through the mirrors and windows literature affords requires vulnerability, tolerance, and self-confidence. I challenge students daily to interrogate what they believe, examine their own idiosyncratic responses and biases, and to become in every capacity who they are."
Matt Campbell is one of two recipients of the 2015 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching.
Campbell teaches dual credit and AP U.S. history in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD (CFISD) at Langham Creek High School. Additionally, he coaches the University Interscholastic League (UIL) social studies team and has expanded the AP U.S. history program, founded the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society on campus, and started a AP European history class. In 2014, he was nominated for CFISD's Spotlight Teacher of the Year.
"In only three years as a teacher, Mr. Campbell has made a mark at Langham Creek," said Principal David Hughes. "He is energetic, engages students in the subject matter, and demonstrates his passion and love for what he teaches."
During Campbell's tenure, the AP U.S. history program at Langham Creek has grown from 120 to over 300 students. Part of his success in expanding the program is due to his innovative and creative teaching methods that emphasize the importance of learning and understanding history.
"For me, this award has been a confirmation that I am doing something right," said Campbell. "Many educators question their career path in the first years, but I think this award has solidified my decision to make education my long-term career path. Professionally, this award marks a huge milestone in my early career and one that I can use as a vehicle to greater successes in the future. I have a passion for teaching history, so this award is an immense honor, and I am proud to display it on my resume, to friends, and to other colleagues."
Campbell's achievements will be honored at a ceremony in the spring of next year.
"I want to encourage newer educators to be excellent teachers of history and challenge them to grow professionally," said Campbell. "It is important for me to foster a passion in other teachers around me. I know that Humanities Texas and this award will work as a way for me to do that."
Humanities Texas is pleased to recognize the achievements of Robin Long, 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award recipient.
Long teaches English language arts, U.S. history, and world history to fourth and fifth graders at Windermere Elementary School in Pflugerville. She also coaches students in the UIL elementary contest in oral reading and spelling and is actively involved in organizing a "Superhero Writing Camp" at the school.
"Robin's creativity is endless," said Windermere Principal Angela Murski. "From teaching Latin stems to wearing a Super Cape to encourage Super Writers, she is an energetic and contagious force in the classroom."
Long uses an inquiry- and project-based approach to teaching the humanities. Her students actively engage in book clubs, presentations, conversations, and debates aimed at creating critical thinkers. These are constructive activities with a twist, as Long integrates song, dance, poetry, and technology into her daily curriculum.
"As an elementary teacher, I want to convey that the humanities can be accessible for our young ones and show that every student benefits from early humanities instruction," said Long. "It is the composition of the very life our children will encounter."
Long's award presentation will take place in the spring of 2016.
"With this award, my school will have the opportunity to bring specific, actionable humanities curriculum and materials to our amazing students, and I could not be more honored or more thrilled," said Long. "I cannot truly articulate how grateful I am to receive such a prestigious award from such a respected organization—from the very people who are on the front lines of instilling the values of the humanities throughout the state of Texas. I simply could not be more humbled or appreciative."
Rebecca Ryan of Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men is a recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Ryan teaches contemporary world cultures to sixth graders at Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men (Leland Prep). In addition, she created and currently sponsors a World Food Club that provides young men with opportunities to experience foreign cultures and cuisines.
"Throughout her time here, Ms. Ryan has offered nothing short of excellence in the instruction she provides to students at Leland Prep," said Principal Dameion Crook. "Her warm and engaging personality helps her students feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment."
Ryan believes in project-based learning and connecting school activities to events in the wider world. Doing her utmost to immerse students in the subject matter, she frequently decorates her classroom to reflect and represent the cultures they are studying. She also involves her students in various external initiatives. Ryan's students have been a part of the "Be An Upstander: Genocide Prevention Project," the Holocaust Museum-Houston’s "Butterfly Project," and a class community service trip to Costa Rica.
"How I teach my class engages students," said Ryan. "They never have to ask, ‘Why are we learning this?' The young men in my classroom know the importance of each project, and, because they feel connected to the subject matter, these sixth graders value the education and take personal pride in global responsibility."
A ceremony to honor Ryan for this award will take place in spring 2016.