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 2023 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 the teachers we recently celebrated, and stay tuned for upcoming newsletter features on our other 2023 winners!
Humanities Texas is currently accepting nominations for the 2024 Outstanding Teaching Award cycle, so nominate a teacher you know and admire today! Nominations will be accepted through Friday, December 8, 2023. Visit our Awards page for more information and to submit a nomination.
On October 10, 2023, U.S. Congressman John Carter presented Wendy Sierra with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at East View High School in Georgetown.
Sierra, a veteran teacher for over twenty-five years, has a talent for making history come alive in her classroom. Whether she is staging her classroom after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 or having students plan a White House State Dinner, her students are immersed in unforgettable lessons.
"Through the humanities, students start to see the creative diversity across time periods, cultures, and perspectives," said Sierra. "For me, the humanities are the oxygen that ignites students' desire to interpret the past, explore the present, and imagine their future."
"When I think of Wendy's ethical purpose, educational values, leadership values, and interpersonal skills, all I can say is she is a passion-driven leader," said Jennifer Kearney, director of teaching and learning at Georgetown ISD. "From the first day I met her, I could see the pride, determination, and initiative she has to enhance educational opportunities for all learners."
On October 20, 2023, Humanities Texas Board Member Thomas DiPiero presented Emily Ramser with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award during a presentation at Allegiance Academy in Euless.
Ramser, who is in her fifth year teaching high school English, has served as a poetry club sponsor, on a campus diversity council, as a proposal reviewer for the National Association for Gifted Children, and as an AP reader for the College Board.
"Ramser took her responsibilities seriously, worked long hours, and soaked up everything she could about the craft of teaching," said Cheryl Taliaferro, ASPIRE Academy district liaison of Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. "I quickly learned that the passion and work ethic she exhibited extended to most endeavors she undertakes. She pours herself into everything she does, actively seeks opportunities to grow, and consistently strives for excellence in her work."
"It's important to recognize that the teaching of the humanities does not happen in a bubble," said Ramser, "as it is made up of all the connections we draw between different people, texts, and disciplines. I would not be the teacher I am today without the students, teachers, and community members I have had the privilege to partner with both in and outside the classroom."
On October 23, 2023, State Representative Dustin Burrows and Humanities Texas Board Member Sean Cunningham presented Julie LaCombe with the 2023 Humanities Texas Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award during a presentation at Laura Bush Middle School in Lubbock.
LaCombe, who is in her seventeenth year of teaching, shows her passion for history through exciting lesson plans where students directly engage with primary sources and discuss their points of view. Whether they are creating their own Ken Burns-style documentary about the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in Texas or reading historical fiction, LaCombe's students approach Texas history in meaningful and memorable ways.
"My love for history and my decision to become a teacher can be credited to the influence of my father," said LaCombe. "When I was in elementary school and into middle school, he would pay me twenty-five cents a page to write reports on subjects of my choosing, and summer vacations always included visits to historic sites. With his support, I was inspired to pursue a career in education where I could share my love for history with others."
"Julie continually seeks out new ways to stimulate student thinking and capture students' minds and hearts, and her classroom is a place where students can be seen busily and happily embarking on a host of interesting activities that bring the content to life," said Brooke Garth, social studies department head at Laura Bush Middle School. "Julie's ability to engage students in the humanities results [not only] in excellent standardized test scores but also in students who love social studies and are ready-and-willing student learners as they move into the next grade level."