As this cycle of Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Awards draws to a close, we are pleased to highlight the final two 2018 award winners. Each received $5,000, with an additional $500 for their respective schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Read more about these amazing Texas teachers, and stay tuned for the announcement of our 2019 Outstanding Teaching Award winners in May!
U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Humanities Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator Marissa Kessenich presented Stephanie Cash with an Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award at the Advanced Learning Academy (ALA)–Fox Tech Campus on March 18, 2019.
Cash has been teaching for eleven years and was a founding member of her current school, which opened two years ago. In addition to being the English department chair, she is the co-creator and co-teacher of an eighth-grade humanities course in partnership with an ALA social studies teacher. She also teaches an eighth–twelfth-grade student leadership course.
"Stephanie has quickly built a campus-wide reputation as an educator who cares deeply about her students, her craft, and the continual improvement of our new school," stated Cynthia Solis, the director of administrative services at SAISD and Cash's nominator for the award. "Students find success in her classroom because she presents them with engaging tasks, lets them know she believes in them, and offers support to those who are not there yet."
As part of Cash's humanities class, her students engage in creative projects that foster a deeper understanding of the course content. Her students have created children's books about the Bill of Rights that were later read to second graders at ALA. Earlier in the semester, Cash's students created podcast episodes demonstrating diverse perspectives on the American Revolution.
"Mrs. Cash is a teacher who gives a classroom full of young people a new way to view our world through the window of English and social studies. She encourages her students to use their own voices and to challenge the worldviews that have been handed to us and to discover how to think for ourselves" said Congressman Doggett. "From my visit today, I could see how well informed her students are about the challenges our country faces. Through her efforts, these ALA students are able to see the 'human' in 'humanities."
In April 2019, Humanities Texas will present Patrick Crawford of the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences with a Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Crawford has spent most of his ten-year career at Fort Worth ISD teaching secondary-level social studies. In addition to teaching world history and government, Crawford also pioneered an elective course focused on the history of medicine.
"Although I think that we should emphasize STEM fields as the world changes at such a frenetic pace, it would be a shame to neglect the humanities," commented Crawford, "We are in danger of allowing technology to define us, but having humanities entrenched into education is essential because it narrates the story of mankind and allows us to appreciate all that makes us unique."
In an effort to combat the misconception that history is superfluous in a STEM school's curriculum, Crawford developed his history of medicine elective course. The class, offered to students in their senior year, aims to help them understand the past of health and medicine and better inform their future service to wellness.
"Mr. Crawford's classroom exemplifies what a highly active and authentic learning environment looks like where students are reading, thinking, and behaving like historians," remarked Joseph Niedziela, director of social studies at Fort Worth ISD. "The types of learning experiences he creates leverage technology and stretch students' imaginations."
In 2018, Humanities Texas awarded Michael Gross of Kennedale Junior High School with a Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
Gross, who has spent twenty-eight of his thirty-seven-year career teaching at Kennedale Junior High School, teaches eighth-grade U.S. history and serves as the head of the history department.
"Humanities education gives us something worthy to seek,” stated Gross. “I not only want my students to learn the facts of our history and government, but I want them to feel what they are learning."
Gross goes above and beyond to create a very specific environment in his classroom. In addition to using a wide range of methods to engage his students, from bringing Civil War reenactors into the classroom to staging a Revolutionary-era town meeting with each of his students taking on a historical role, he also invests in authentic documents and materials to display around his classroom.
"Mr. Gross has made a tremendous difference among students in his classroom who may not have previously liked history class," commented Bel Williams, the principal of Kennedale Junior High School. "The impact that he has made is admirable."