As the year draws to a close, we remain grateful for the dedication, creativity, and tireless work of Texas teachers. This December, we are pleased to recognize three more 2021 Outstanding Teaching Award recipients. Each teacher received $5,000, with an additional $1,000 for their school to support further excellence in the instruction of the humanities. Read more about the incredible teachers we recently celebrated.

We are currently accepting nominations for our 2022 Outstanding Teaching Awards! Submit a nomination before December 17, 2021 (extended deadline).

Michael Gillette, Samuel V. Champion High School, Boerne

Humanities Texas awarded Michael Gillette of Samuel V. Champion High School in Boerne a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Gillette, who has been an educator for twenty-six years, has spent the last thirteen years teaching U.S. history at Champion High School.

"As both an advanced placement and dual credit teacher, I strive to develop college-ready students who are capable of thriving in a variety of academic settings," Gillette said. "In order to help maximize the intellectual potential of all students, I teach my class at a high level of rigor. Central to my teaching is the development of critical thinking skills through extensive usage of primary and secondary sources of history."

Gillette has also been continuing his own studies as a recipient of the James Madison Fellowship at Ashland University and Georgetown University. He attends conventions and other activities that represent the Madison Foundation.

"Michael's keen interest in sharing what he was learning with his students has always shone through," said Ashland University history professor David Krugler. "His commitment to the best possible teaching of history and literature greatly impressed me and still does."

Michelle Grajeda, Young Women's Leadership Academy,
San Antonio

Humanities Texas awarded Michelle Grajeda of Young Women's Leadership Academy in San Antonio a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. While she has taught English language arts and elective courses for six years at Young Women's Leadership Academy, Grajeda's classroom career spans twenty-three years. 

"I believe what I'm teaching—what I'm assigning my students to read and write about—is more important than almost anything else," Grajeda said. "This is indicative of the rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning opportunities experienced by all my students. Maybe the fact that literature is a reflection of life makes it easier for me to maintain my passion for education after a little more than two decades."

In addition to teaching English language arts, Grajeda acts as sponsor of the Young Poets' Society where she mentors student poets. The organization supports a poet-in-residence and coordinates community readings throughout the year.

"Our students learn to impact their community positively at an early age and our experience has been that they continue giving back to their community after graduation," said Young Women's Learning Academy Head of Schools Delia McLerran. "Michelle Grajeda develops leaders and scholars with all that she does."

Sarah Palmer, Morton Ranch High School, Katy

Humanities Texas awarded Sarah Palmer of Morton Ranch High School in Katy a 2021 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. Palmer has taught U.S. history, pre-AP and world geography, and Engines of Change through History in her seven-year span as a teacher at Morton Ranch.

"First and foremost, I establish relationships," Palmer said. "Relationships matter. I work at an at-risk school where rapport is critical for classroom culture and a positive and engaging learning environment. I get to know my students and their stories. I attend their extracurriculars to show my support for their passions. If you show up for kids and make the time to understand their story, it demonstrates your genuine interest, and they invest in their learning and your class."

Beyond her teaching responsibilities, Palmer is also the social studies department chair, acting as a liaison between administration, teachers, and students. She oversees the yearly budget in addition to arranging teacher trainings and professional development opportunities for teachers.

"Sarah Palmer is the quintessential teacher for the humanities and is a shining example of what teachers strive to achieve in their careers," said Morton Ranch High School Principal Julie Hinson. "Both her heart and hard work demonstrate how much education means to her and how much of herself she dedicates to developing her students into socially conscientious individuals."






2021 OTA winner Michael Gillette in his classroom at Samuel V. Champion High School in Boerne.




2021 OTA winner Michelle Grajeda (left) with a student at Young Women's Leadership Academy in San Antonio.






2021 OTA winner Sarah Palmer leads students through a gallery walk at Morton Ranch High School in Katy.