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 December 8, 2022, Texas State Senator Donna Campbell and Humanities Texas board member Kathy Schlosberg presented Jan Takac with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at Alamo Heights High School.
Takac has taught history at Alamo Heights High School for the past eighteen years, but her classroom career spans thirty years. During that time, she has been an active member of the College Board, participating in AP workshops and grading AP world history exams during the summers. Additionally, Takac serves as sponsor for Junior Statesmen of America and Destination Imagination, both student-run, performance-based organizations with statewide chapters.
"Whether my students and I are discussing what it would have been like to be a medieval serf, debating whether Napoleon was a 'hero or zero,' or crying through Schindler's List, there is never a dull moment in my class!" commented Takac. "My students will tell you: history is NOT dull. They know how to find out more. They have some frameworks within which to consider what they continue to learn."
As one Alamo Heights High School student elaborated, "While Ms. Takac is memorable for her enthralling teaching style and her love for her students, what is truly unforgettable is her ardent passion of the subject she teaches and, subsequently, her ability to inspire the same passion for history in her students."
On December 9, 2022, Texas State Representative Giovanni Capriglione and Humanities Texas board member Thomas DiPiero presented Virginia Wenger with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at George Dawson Middle School.
Wenger has been a classroom teacher for eighteen years. For the past nine years, she has taught history and English at George Dawson Middle School. In addition to serving as the English department chair, she is also the Gifted/Talented specialist and has played an active role in school and district curriculum planning and leadership. Last year, she served on the Carroll Independent School District Strategic Planning Committee and helped write the district's five-year strategic plan, incorporating a humanities focus.
"A robust curriculum in history is pivotal for any student graduating from any high school in our nation so that she understands how her contribution to our society as a whole, no matter how small or large, will sustain our country and the liberty that it stands for around the world," wrote Wenger. "Studying literature helps students to become compassionate human beings who can understand the world and appreciate different perspectives."
"To be in Mrs. Wenger's classroom is to witness someone with a tremendous capacity for relationship building through consistent accountability and constant encouragement," commented Ryan Adams, Carroll Senior High School principal. "Her expectations are fantastically high, and she stops at nothing to see her students reach that level of accomplishment."
On December 13, 2022, Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio and former Humanities Texas board member Manuel Medrano presented Alma Salazar with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at a Brownsville Independent School District board meeting.
Salazar has taught English at Faulk Middle School for the past five years, but her classroom career spans twenty-six years. She has been incredibly active in the Brownsville Independent School District community. Since 1997, Salazar has served as a district coordinator and organizer for the statewide UIL program—planning, implementing, and monitoring the UIL program at the campus and district levels. Additionally, she implemented an early childhood literacy peer tutoring program in 2017.
"My students are aware that mastering language arts and reading is necessary in order to become successful in all subject areas and that obtaining a quality education provides multiple opportunities for a better quality of life," commented Salazar. "As an educator, I must not only educate and transfer knowledge to my students but encourage, inspire, and promote them to become productive members of our society. Making sure that all students who walk through my classroom develop a sense of ownership and responsibility to their community is of utmost importance to a humanities education."
"Mrs. Salazar brings the humanities to life for her students and her peers. Her passion and commitment to education allow her to create a positive learning environment for all on our campus," commented Benita Villarreal, Faulk Middle School principal. "Being a teacher of students and teacher of teachers, she inspires others to have the fervor and urgency to grow and evolve."