Each year, Humanities Texas presents awards to exceptional Texas K–12 humanities teachers around the state. Recipients receive $5,000, with an additional $1,000 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. This month, we are pleased to kick off our annual tradition of featuring profiles of our latest Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award winners in a series of e-newsletter articles. Follow along each month as we celebrate fifteen incredible educators.
Humanities Texas awarded Sarah Wiseman of Liberty High School in Frisco the 2021 James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award, which is reserved for the teacher who receives the highest rating from the Humanities Texas award committee. Wiseman has spent six of her last thirteen years teaching U.S. and world history at Liberty High School.
"I want [my students] to have the skills needed for navigating our complex and divisive world: understanding the worldviews of others, thinking and consuming new information critically, and articulating their views clearly and constructively," said Wiseman.
Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Wiseman develops curriculum and trainings for her school and district that aim to incorporate visual art and the humanities. She also mentors humanities student teachers, coaching them on developing the skills necessary for a career in education.
"Sarah is a brilliant innovator in the classroom and has a natural ability to create unique and creative activities to engage students," said Liberty High School colleague Hope Rojas. "With these activities, our students were able to not only gain a stronger grasp on the history but also have a deep understanding of how the art of the world is intertwined in their studies."
Melonie Menefee of Buffalo High School is the recipient of the Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award, which recognizes teachers who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the educational field. Menefee has dedicated all twenty-seven years of her classroom career to teaching English at Buffalo High School.
"[The] two loves of my life come together for me in the English language arts classroom," Menefee said. "Here, I can tie reading, writing, research, and critical thinking together to show students how to develop and defend opinions. I can tie literature and history together to show them the impact on society and culture today and what we need to do to try to make things better in the future. I can give them the tools they need to make a difference."
In addition to teaching English, Menefee serves on the Lifetouch Publishing National Advisers Council, helping yearbook advisors assist their students with producing a yearbook that reflects their school. She presented in virtual sessions over the past year that were attended by teachers across the country.
"Mrs. Menefee is experienced in facilitating learning on multiple levels and encouraging her students to deepen their understanding of not only themselves but those around them," commented Buffalo High School teacher Melissa Isaacs. "Her experience as an educator allows her the skills to make the written language accessible, no matter a student’s ability."
Humanities Texas awarded Chad Hannon of of iUniversity Prep in Grapevine the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award, which recognizes exemplary Texas history teachers. At iUniversity Prep, where he has spent two of his fifteen years teaching, Hannon teaches Texas and U.S. history.
"My main philosophy when teaching history is that learning about our past helps us understand our present and future," said Hannon. "Texas history is important because it is our shared story, and we must understand each other if we are to grow together as citizens of this state. In order for me to have my students buy into this philosophy, I have to bring my passion for the subject to every lesson yet also make it relatable to them and fun at the same time."
In addition to teaching history, Hannon sponsors students at the National History Day competition. He trained four additional schools to host their own History Day and brought the competition to iUniversity Prep in 2019.
"When it comes to getting students to get excited about social studies, you won't find anyone better than Mr. Hannon," said Grapevine Middle School Principal Laura Koehler. "His passion is evident, and he managed to bring the scope of STEM to his social studies lessons, from examining the weapons, landscapes, and technologies available during the time period to getting students to learn the research process when examining historical events."