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 three of our 2022 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 a few of the teachers we recently celebrated.
On October 25, 2022, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia and Humanities Texas Executive Director Eric Lupfer presented Ashley Gibson with a 2022 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at the Galena Park ISD Administration Building.
Gibson's classroom career spans fifteen years. At the time of the award, Gibson taught English at Galena Park High School. Gibson has been active in strengthening educational communities, both inside and outside of the classroom. In 2016, Gibson created the Pen Symposium, a student-led, student-centered, and project-based learning experience involving research and writing, Socratic-style seminars, and argumentative speeches that provoke social change, among many other groundbreaking learning models. In the six years since its creation, the Pen Symposium has become a staple forum for students to share their ideas.
"A humanities education is important because it helps students learn the importance of community engagement and societal interdependence in a democratic society," said Gibson. "Students and teachers alike engage in learning communities that are important spaces where relationships are built and important social foundations are formed. Learners need humanities teachers who care not only about content but about who they are as whole people, full of cultural capital with all of the rich lived experiences that they bring."
"I have seen firsthand the community and level of trust she has built with each student," commented Tiffany Gipson, English teacher at Galena Park High School. "Dr. Gibson sees each student far beyond their academic success, but as human beings. Her concern is more about who they will become and what contributions they'll make to the world. She encourages them to have a voice and advocate for themselves if no one else does."
On November 28, 2022, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Texas State Representative Gina Hinojosa, and Humanities Texas Executive Director Eric Lupfer presented James Brewster with a 2022 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.
At the time of the award, Brewster taught middle school U.S. history at Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy, where he worked for eight years. During his eighteen years in the classroom, Brewster has used the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) and has presented this method to teachers at various conferences and institutes. Additionally, Brewster is a teacher fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Through this fellowship, Brewster serves as a leader in Holocaust education in his school and community and is presently part of a focus group creating resources addressing antisemitism.
"My most significant accomplishment has always been empowering and engaging students with the past through storytelling and ensuring that the study of the past incorporates a multitude of relevant voices and perspectives," shared Brewster. "It's important to my students and to me that the historical figures we study are reflective of my classes. My hope is always to foster a connection between the past, present, and future. I strive to facilitate my students' place in the stream of time, so they have voice and relevance."
On December 8, 2022, Texas State Senator Donna Campbell and Humanities Texas board member Katharine Schlosberg presented Lisa Barry with the Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award during a presentation at Woodridge Elementary School.
Barry has taught English and history at Woodridge Elementary for the past five years, but her classroom career spans twenty-six years. During this time, Barry introduced Senate Bill 1828 related to Holocaust Remembrance Week in public schools to the Texas Legislature. Subsequently, Barry has played a crucial role in advocating for Holocaust remembrance education, organizing numerous events that allow students to learn more about the Holocaust and its impact, and working closely with survivors.
"I use a Children of the Holocaust research project to foster in my students an understanding of empathy and tolerance," commented Barry. "The lessons span the entire school year with a six million penny drive to represent lives lost due to intolerance during WWII, a 'Tweens for Tolerance' t-shirt for sale with proceeds going to local charities, and student-written public service announcements to aid in raising awareness for tolerance."
"What began as a curriculum unit in her classroom has now changed the landscape of public education across the entire state of Texas," said Jimmie Walker, Alamo Heights ISD Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. "[Barry] worked tirelessly with three second-generation Holocaust survivors to champion Senate Bill 1828 and garnered support from Senator José Menéndez for this bill, which establishes a formal Holocaust Remembrance Week in schools as well as high-quality resources for teachers."