Humanities Texas recently presented six educators across the state with 2015 Outstanding Teaching Awards during ceremonies at their respective schools. Each award winner received $5,000 with an additional $500 for his or her school to purchase humanities instructional materials. Read more about the recipients and their award presentations below.
There is still time to nominate an exceptional teacher for our 2016 Outstanding Teaching Awards! Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for the awards through Friday, December 11. Winners will receive a $5,000 cash award and an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Visit our Awards page to submit a nomination.
On September 24, 2015, State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa joined Humanities Texas Program Officer Sam Moore to present Todd Moulder with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award at Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi.
Moulder teaches eighth-grade English and serves as department chair. In 2010, he was named Baker Middle School Teacher of the Year and Corpus Christi ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year. In 2014, he was a statewide semi-finalist for the HEB Excellence in Education Lifetime Achievement Award.
"I was particularly proud to have been named an Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities by Humanities Texas," said Moulder. "I moved to the Valley in 1992 with a liberal arts degree in history and has no education background. My first principal took a big risk on a kid from Kentucky, and she recognized something in me that Humanities Texas honors. Examining our lives as both individuals and members of a community is not only worthwhile, it is fundamental to a good education and a well-lived life."
As an English teacher, Moulder emphasizes writing and publication of student work in his engaging classroom activities and assignments.
"Walking into Todd Moulder's classroom is a one-of-a kind experience," said Baker Middle School Principal John Dobbins. "There's a vibrance to the atmosphere, with various groups of students reading and annotating texts and others citing sources at the computer. The kids at his desk talking through their writing drafts are doubled over with laughter at some observation or story. The classroom resonates with his personality. Because his students know he respects their individuality, they are free to write what they really feel. He tirelessly encourages students, insisting that they persist to produce clear, insightful communication. His exuberance, passion, and wisdom carry beyond the classroom into the school culture and the greater community. If Todd Moulder is involved, it will be successful. And it will be fun."
At his award ceremony, Moulder reflected on what it means to receive a good education: "A good education honors all of the aspects of what it means to be a human. Not just our brains, but our hearts and souls. . . . A good education is learning and growing with kids, inspiring them to be innovative and diligent, and then guiding them to achieve more than they thought they could."
On October 1, 2015, State Senator Paul Bettencourt and Chase Untermeyer, Humanities Texas board member and former ambassador to Qatar, presented an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award to Candace Tannous at Cypress Woods High School.
Although she has since retired, at the time of the award Tannous taught AP American studies and English III and served as English department chair.
"Looking back on my twenty-five years as an educator, it has been a deep honor to work with kids of all ages to help them experience the interrelatedness of the arts, literature, music, and history—as a journey into the interior of the human heart," said Tannous. "My goal is to help students become humane and conscientious citizens of the world."
To achieve this goal, Tannous strived to build a student culture of compassion and acceptance during her time at the school. To her surprise, on October 1, 2015, student leaders announced that Cypress Woods High School had officially earned No Place for Hate status by the Anti-Defamation League. Cypress Woods students had signed a 'Resolution of Respect' banner to confirm the goal that Tannous had set for the school.
"I cannot think anyone more deserving than Ms. Tannous," said Principal Gary Kinninger. "She models a pure sense of kindness that I wish for every student at Cypress Woods to absorb and use throughout life."
Reflecting on the award presentation, Tannous commented: "I was deeply honored to be presented the award by Senator Paul Bettencourt and Ambassador Chase Untermeyer, especially with our history department chair George Villamagna present. Mr. Villamagna and I worked side by side for the past eight years to make every day in our American studies classroom a robust discussion of how literature and rhetoric respond to history. The setting for the award was especially poignant because Principal Gary Kinninger arranged for the entire faculty to be present. My wonderful colleagues reflect a commitment to the humanities by working so hard to create a culture of compassion at Cypress Woods that addresses the needs of the whole child. This moment was made even more meaningful by my students coming on stage to sign a "Resolution of Respect," a pledge to combat prejudice and make our school an Anti-Defamation League No Place for Hate school. It was one of the happiest and most meaningful days of my life!"
On October 15, 2015, State Senator Kirk Watson joined Liz James, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas, to honor Julie Campbell, seventh-grade Texas history teacher at Austin's West Ridge Middle School and 2015 recipient of the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award.
"Ms. Campbell's knowledge of Texas history and her pedagogical methods are creative, engaging, innovative, and challenging for all students," said West Ridge Middle School Principal Steve Ramsey.
At West Ridge Middle School, Campbell serves as a strong mentor for new teachers and a leader in curriculum development for her district and region. In the fall of 2014, she began working on a joint project with the Texas Association of School Administrators and Apple to create iTunes U curriculum courses for K–12.
"It is important for me that students feel I have engaged with them, challenged them, made Texas history a fun and memorable class, and given them opportunities to be lifelong learners," said Campbell.
In her classroom, Campbell uses a hands-on and interactive approach to appeal to a variety of student learning styles. "It is important for me that students feel I have engaged with them, challenged them, made Texas history a fun and memorable class, and given them opportunities to be lifelong learners," said Campbell.
"Receiving the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Texas History Teacher Award is a breathtaking experience," said Campbell. "For the last two weeks, I have been walking in a cloud. It is both humbling and affirming and that, along with the congratulations and excitement on campus, brings new enthusiasm to my class and my students!"
On October 19, 2015, U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette awarded Justin Felux of San Antonio with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
A world history teacher at Claudia Taylor Johnson High School in San Antonio, Felux sponsors such activities as University Interscholastic League Current Events, Academic Quiz Bowl, and the National History Day competition. He has twice been named Teacher of the Month.
"Winning the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award was an incredible and humbling honor for me," said Felux. "I felt validated that all the hard work I’ve put in thus far in my career has been worth all the effort. I have a renewed inspiration to continue being the best teacher that I can be."
Whether engaging students with Socratic circles, planning a Saturday field trip to the San Antonio Museum of Art, or leading a group of students abroad in China, Felux demonstrates a dedication to his students and their education, while maintaining a passion for the teaching profession.
In a letter of recommendation, one student commented, "Mr. Felux is the most involved, engaging teacher I have ever met, and I am proud to call him my greatest mentor."
One of Felux's most significant accomplishments occurred this past year when he published a book consisting of research essays written by his sophomore AP world history students, the proceeds of which will go to Doctors Without Borders.
"As humanities teachers, we know that our disciplines are essential to understanding the great issues of our time," said Felux. "We hope that our students leave our classrooms not simply with more 'facts' in their brains, but with an increased social conscience and a desire to make the world a better place."
"Congratulations to Justin Felux and to Johnson High School on receiving this high honor," said U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith. "Teachers have the ability to make a lasting impact on the lives of their students. We need more teachers like Mr. Felux to help our students succeed and to invest in the next generation."
During a community-wide homecoming celebration on October 21, 2015, Humanities Texas Program Officer Sam Moore and Blaine Fulmer, regional director for Congressman Michael McCaul, presented Vandegrift High School's Leslie Giesenschlag with the Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching. Giesenschlag is one of two recipients for this 2015 award.
Giesenschlag teaches world regional geography and AP human geography and serves as lead geography teacher at Austin's Vandegrift High School. Last spring, over two hundred students took their first AP exam as high school freshmen, with 84 percent earning college credit.
"Ms. Giesenschlag is a truly unique educator who personifies the essence of the power and positive impact one person can have on the lives of young people," said Charlie Little, principal of Vandegrift High School. "Although she is new to our profession, she has already established herself as a master-level teacher and a dedicated educator who exudes a wisdom and experience beyond her years."
"My personal goal is to make sure all my students leave my classroom college-ready and with increased global awareness," said Giesenschlag. "The two main ways I achieve this are by making class as fun as possible and developing students' critical thinking and geographic questioning skills."
"I am proud to recognize Leslie Giesenschlag as this year's recipient of the Humanities Texas Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching," said U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul. "Ms. Giesenschlag excels in many areas, including encouraging students to study human geography, current events and their various societal impacts, and ensuring that her daily class is both educational and fun. Her colleagues have the upmost respect for her, citing her qualities of creative and innovative teaching and her service as an inspiration to young people and aspiring teachers. I am honored to have such a dedicated educator in my district, and I stand with your friends and family in proud congratulations."
On Thursday, October 22, 2015, The Honorable Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Humanities Texas Vice Chairman John Kerr, and Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette presented Ann Mar of San Antonio's Alamo Heights High School with the James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. This award honors James F. Veninga, Humanities Texas executive director emeritus, for his twenty-three years of extraordinary contributions to the state council and the public humanities.
Mar teaches AP Spanish Language and Culture and chairs the foreign language department at Alamo Heights High School. She serves as a district-wide leader in curriculum development, program design, and language proficiency and pedagogy.
"Ann Mar is thoroughly deserving of this prestigious award," said Principal Cordell Jones. "Her passion for helping develop well-rounded young adults is extraordinary. She diligently plans lessons that are engaging and pushes students to work collaboratively and creatively as they master a second language."
Mar is an active and recognized leader in regional, state, and national world language teaching organizations. She has held many different leadership roles for the AP Spanish language and culture professional community, including AP consultant, member of the Test Development Committee, and College Board advisor.
Most importantly, Mar has a tremendous impact on her students. She engages students in innovative and meaningful activities both in and outside the classroom, focusing their learning on communication and cultural understanding.
"For me, helping students learn to speak a new language, and to interact in a positive way with people from cultures different from their own is a passion," said Mar. "I am proud to receive Humanities Texas' James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award not only for the recognition of my own work, but especially for the acknowledgement of the important contribution made by all language teachers."
"Ann Mar is an asset to Alamo Heights High School and our entire community," said Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus. "She has earned this important recognition with her innovative approach to teaching and her commitment to helping students develop their language skills. Alamo Heights is known for outstanding teachers, and she's one of the best."