Although this cycle of Outstanding Teaching Award presentations looks different from past years, we are pleased to showcase three exceptional 2020 award winners. Each teacher received $5,000, with an additional $1,000 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. We look forward to holding in-person award presentations once again in 2021. In the meantime, read more about the incredible teachers we recently celebrated below.
Humanities Texas awarded Amanda Pfeiffer of Bowie High School in Austin a 2020 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Her achievement was recognized during a faculty meeting at her campus this spring.
Pfeiffer has spent her entire fourteen-year classroom career at Bowie High School, where she currently teaches eleventh-grade English.
"I demand that my students fearlessly push themselves beyond their intellectual comfort zones," said Pfeiffer. "My approach to teaching the humanities is to facilitate thoughtful and critical thinking by creating an emotionally, intellectually, and physically safe space that validates and encourages students to take positive risks."
In addition to teaching English, Pfeiffer coordinates Culture Day at Bowie High School, a campus-wide showcase of student-led booths featuring food, language, artifacts, songs, and dance to celebrate diversity, teach empathy, and learn about different cultures.
"Amanda Pfeiffer brings intensity, passion, dedication, and an uncanny sense of organization to everything she does at Bowie," said Dean of Instruction Susan Leos. "From teaching a veritable medley of English classes over the years to serving as sponsor for student causes, she is a true leader on our campus. Moreover, she seeks to serve our students and our teachers while she is promoting a love for liberal arts and the humanities."
In a virtual presentation on September 23, 2020, Humanities Texas board member Stephanie Tucker awarded Sydney Grice of Ripley House Elementary Charter School in Bellaire a 2020 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching, which recognizes exemplary contributions of humanities teachers who have completed three or fewer years of teaching.
Grice has been an educator for three years and currently teaches fifth-grade English language arts and social studies at Ripley House Elementary Charter School.
"Teaching provides the unique and powerful experience of shaping the way young minds see their opportunities, capabilities, and each other," stated Grice. "I have worked to enrich my students' perspectives, activate their curiosity, and prepare them to take their knowledge outside the classroom."
Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Grice previously worked with the Organizing Network for Education (ONE) Houston, a network of students, parents, educators, and community members who organize through political and social action. She is also a leader on her campus and throughout the district, serving on the Promise Community Schools Teacher Leadership Board.
"Ms. Grice's classroom in action serves as an exemplar of what all students deserve," said fellow teacher Sarah Tredway. "She has a laser-focus on ensuring students make meaningful real-world connections, developing their self-agency, and teaching and leading beyond the classroom."
On September 28, 2020, Humanities Texas presented Cora Garner of DeSoto High School with a 2020 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching. The virtual award ceremony took place during the DeSoto ISD board meeting, with DeSoto ISD board members, DeSoto High School Principal Dr. LaBotta Taylor, and one of Garner's students in attendance.
For the last two years, Garner has taught pre-AP English I and II at DeSoto High School while simultaneously earning her master's in educational leadership.
"I strive to teach my English classes in unorthodox, yet unique ways to cultivate a learning environment that yields academic success," commented Garner. "Regardless if I am teaching regular tutorials or training for the STAAR assessment, my work is never done until I hear students vocalize, 'I can do it.'"
In addition to teaching pre-AP classes, Garner sponsors the Literary Scholars Club within the Early College High School program. Students in the Literary Scholars Club complete creative educational projects such as videos, songs, and dances, from writing local business jingles to performing for the State Board of Education.
"Ms. Garner frequently adopts divergent approaches to engaging students in the classroom experience, which always leads to a greater depth of content and skill acquisition,” said DeSoto ISD Superintendent D'Andre Weaver. “Called upon to speak, teach, and inspire students and teachers across this state, Ms. Garner is truly a captivating teacher with the ability to appeal to both students and her peers."